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


The two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12 – an interpretation

This post offers a possible interpretation of Revelation 11:3-12 and a way of seeing the significance of this passage in discussions about the events of the end of the age.

The first time you read through the eleventh chapter of Revelation and read the account of the two witnesses (11:3-12), there will be confusion and mystery. Pretty much guaranteed. What do these two witnesses symbolize and what is the significance of the events that occur in this passage? Where does this take place? When does this take place? How are we to interpret this section of Scripture? I have explored these questions over the course of the last year as I have carefully studied the end-times passages in the Bible, and an understanding of this passage has slowly emerged.

The exegesis that follows will show the meaning of the events at the end of the age. In another post, I will also demonstrate that the persecution of the two witnesses at the end of the age closely parallels the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry.

EXEGESIS SHOWING THE MEANING OF PASSAGE

Revelation 11:3-6 – The two witnesses represent the faithful church proclaiming the gospel at the end of the age[i] in the face of persecution and opposition. Note that the two witnesses prophesy (proclaim the gospel) for 1,260 days.[ii] The faithful church is the rightful place where the gospel is proclaimed. The church is the outpost of gospel witness in every location where it exists, giving testimony to Jesus in that place. The two witnesses are called the “two olive trees” (11:4), which are the trees of Jew and Gentile together in the church, according to Romans 11:17-24. The church is the true olive tree. During the days of their prophesying (11:6), they “shut up the sky so that rain will not fall” and they “strike the earth with every plague.” This is a reference to the church’s authority with the word of God, that the church has all the authority of Moses and Elijah, the Law and the prophets. So, again, the two witnesses are the faithful church during the tribulation.

Revelation 11:7

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them and overcome them and kill them. – Rev. 11:7

First, notice that the two witnesses (the faithful church) “finish their testimony.” There will come a time when the faithful church has accomplished the mission given to her by her King, a time when all the elect have been gathered in, when “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). The church has fulfilled its purpose and has finished its testimony. Only then will the beast be allowed to overcome and kill the church.

“The beast” here is the same beast mentioned in other parts of Revelation. This is THE beast, the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, the second person of the evil trinity. He is allowed to make war on the faithful church and to overcome them and kill them. This event occurs at the very end of the 42 months*. The beast has overcome and killed a significant portion of the visible church, such that the church appears utterly defeated.

Revelation 11:8-10 – There is much imagery in these three verses. The faithful church (“the two prophets” in 11:10) is visibly seen as dead (“their dead bodies will lie in the street;” “dead bodies” is mentioned three times in these verses for emphasis). Peoples and tribes and tongues and nations (the world of the unrighteous) will rejoice and celebrate (11:10) as they “look at their dead bodies for three and a half days” (11:9). The beast appears to have destroyed the church, and the world rejoices and celebrates for three and a half days. Is all lost? Has the church been annihilated? Has evil triumphed?

Revelation 11:11 – This verse is carefully worded to ensure that it alludes to Ezekiel 37:10. After the dead bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street of the great city for three and a half days (Rev. 11:11), “the breath of life from God came into them.” This is certainly pointing to the Resurrection that is described in Ezekiel 37:10: “So I prophesied, and the breath of life came into them.” After this, “they stood on their feet” (Rev. 11:11), which again refers back to Ezekiel 37:10, for there we read, “they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” What is occurring in Revelation 11:11 is the Resurrection of the dead in Christ that was foreshadowed in Ezekiel 37. Then “great fear fell upon all those who were watching them.” Well, I guess so! The reason great fear fell upon them is that they realize this sudden turn of events spells their doom. The church appeared to be safely annihilated and the beast had won the battle. Then suddenly the world’s victims rise from the dead. The people of the world realize their doom is sealed.

Revelation 11:12 – After the Resurrection, “they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’” The loud voice calls to mind 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when there will be “a shout with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God.” These two verses are certainly describing the same event. “Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them” (Rev. 11:12). Again, John writes the verse to remind the reader of other New Testament passages. We can see clear parallels to Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:9, where “He (Jesus) was lifted up while they (the disciples) were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Also, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we read that “we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” What we see, then, in this verse is the ascension of the glorified saints after their Resurrection.

SUMMARY

The faithful church will prophesy for (relatively literal) 1,260 days in the face of fierce opposition during the tribulation at the very end of the age. When they have accomplished their mission and the preaching of the gospel has gathered in all the elect, the beast will be allowed to kill a large portion of the visible faithful church. The world will rejoice and celebrate since it seems that evil and the beast have had the final victory. The church appears dead and Christ has been defeated. But then, when all appears lost, Christ’s church is resurrected with glorified bodies and stands on its feet as a great army. These ascend to meet Christ in the air in preparation for the final battle and the slaughter of all the unrighteous.

Next time, we will look at how this parallels Christ’s earthly ministry.

SDG                 rmb                 11/01/2021                 #449


[i] This proclamation occurs during the 42 months*, the relatively literal period of time between the “thousand years” and the Last Day. Refer to my book, The Last Act of the Drama, for these definitions.

[ii] Note that 1,260 days is the equivalent of forty-two months, and is equivalent to “time, times, and half a time.” A combination of these three expressions appear five times in Revelation 11-13. Elsewhere I refer to this time period as the 42 months*.

The Messiah’s glorious return in Psalm 110

For the scribes and rabbis of ancient Israel, Psalm 110 was a dense thicket of mysteries. The psalm was rightly perceived as Messianic, but the meaning of the visions in its verses was entirely opaque. Thus, this psalm received little commentary from Jewish scholars in the Talmud and the Midrash.

But since David penned this psalm a thousand years before Jesus, redemptive history has produced the Incarnation, and the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah, and divinely inspired prophecies in the completed text of Scripture now give us the end of the story. The net effect is that Psalm 110 can now be seen for what it is, a detailed prophecy of the coming of the Messiah as King and Judge at the end of the age. This post will demonstrate the parallels between Psalm 110 and other end-times prophecy in the Bible.

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This scene takes place in heaven shortly after Christ’s ascension following His resurrection. The Son of God has accomplished the work of redemption which was given to Him by the Father in His Incarnation (John 17:4). His work was finished as He died His atoning death on the cross (John 19:30). He was raised from the dead on the third day and now Jesus has ascended back to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1:20-21; Rev. 5:13) to await the time when the Father will send Him back to earth to vanquish all His enemies (Matt. 24:36).

The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”

Now the time has come! Now the Father has decided that it is time to end the age and to bring a just recompense on all His enemies. And so, the Father hands the royal scepter to the Son and sends Him forth to judge and to vanquish the earth. Then will appear “a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war” (Rev. 19:11). The Son is now coming to tread out the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:19-20; 19:15).

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.

On that day, the day of Christ’s power, the glorified saints (“Your people in holy array”) will return with the Lord (1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 19:14), and they will “volunteer freely” and will deal out recompense along with their King (Psalm 149:5-9).

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord Jesus has always been Priest and King and Prophet, but here we are allowed to attend the ordination ceremony that took place in eternity past when God the Father anointed God the Son to be 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.

This is still on the Last Day when the Lord Jesus returns to judge the nations and to “shatter kings.” “A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry. On the day of the LORD’s wrath, all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth” (Zeph. 15-18). As David and Zephaniah tell of the day of the Lord’s wrath, so we read of that same day in Revelation 6:15-17:

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

The point here in this verse is that, the day of wrath spoken about by David ca. 1000 BC is the same day of wrath spoken about by the prophet Zephaniah and by the apostle John. This is the day of the Lord.

He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.              

On the day of the Lord, when Jesus returns, He will judge the nations (Matt. 25:31-32). When He comes in power and glory, Jesus will slaughter all the unrighteous (Rev. 19:21) and will destroy kings and commanders and mighty men (Rev. 19:18-19). Again, we see David’s vision of the day of the Lord repeated in John’s vision of the same event.

CONCLUSION

The Person of Jesus the Messiah removes the mysteries from Psalm 110. Jesus is God the Son who sits at the Father’s right hand. Jesus is the one who will rule in the midst of His enemies. Jesus is the one who will lead His glorified saints to victory on the Last Day. Jesus is the one who is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus will shatter kings, judge the nations, slaughter the unrighteous, and shatter the chief men on the day of His wrath. “Therefore, He will lift up His head.”            

SDG                 RMB                10/19/2021                 #442

The end of the age according to Jesus – Part 1

There are several themes that run through the gospel of Matthew, but one of the most prominent of those is the end of the age. With unrivaled authority, Jesus declares the truth about the end of the age and what will occur on that day.

This post will examine Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares from Matthew 13:37-43, a parable about the and make some observations. Below is the passage from the New American Standard Bible.

37 And Jesus said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Observation 1: There is certainly coming an end to this age.

In His first advent, Jesus came as Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, He made sweeping prophecies about the future, which included unambiguous teaching that history was heading to an inevitable conclusion and that He, Jesus Christ, was the one who was in charge of that concluding event. While the Father alone knew the timing of His coming (Matthew 24:36), the King of kings and Lord of lords would execute the conclusion of history.

In this parable, Jesus relates the end of the age as a matter of fact in 13:39, 40. Then in 13:41-43, our Lord gives the details of the how the age concludes, so history will certainly end.  

Observation 2: Jesus is certainly coming at the end of the age.

All of Jesus’ teaching about the end of the age included His coming. The two are so inseparable as to be virtually synonymous. That Jesus is certainly returning to judge the earth is mentioned throughout the New Testament epistles and is one of the central themes of the book of Acts.

In the parable of the wheat and tares, “The Son of Man will send forth His angels.” We know from other end-times passages that He sends His angels while He Himself is descending from heaven to earth at His coming. It is certain that the Lord Jesus will come again.

Observation 3: There are two groups of people, the righteous and the unrighteous, and every human being who has ever lived is in one of these two groups.

As we read this parable, we see that there are “the sons of the kingdom” and there are “the sons of the evil one” (Matthew 13:38). This doctrine is consistent throughout the Bible, from at least Genesis 4 on, that there are those who are part of the kingdom of heaven, and there are those who are evil. In Genesis 4 immediately after the fall, Cain was evil, Abel was righteous. So it has been throughout history, and so it is today. All humanity divides between the righteous and the unrighteous, between the wheat and the tares, and there is no third category.

And so it is for you personally. You are either seen by God as righteous, as “a son of the kingdom,” or as unrighteous, as “a son of the evil one.” The significance of this becomes apparent in the next observation.

Observation 4: At the end of the age, Jesus Christ will admit all the righteous into eternal life in heaven.

The final verse of the parable describes the destiny of those who are seen as righteous. At the end of the age, when Jesus (the Son of Man) comes in His glory (Matthew 25:31), “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” From other New Testament passages, we know that the righteous will be resurrected with glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15, etc.), and so here Jesus describes them as shining like the sun. Notice where they are shining. They are shining “in the kingdom of their Father.” Of course, this is heaven.

Observation 5: At the end of the age, Jesus Christ will throw all the unrighteous into the furnace of fire (the lake of fire), where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Now we come to the main message of the parable: “Be warned! Hear My words and heed My words! There is a terrifying judgment coming upon all the unrighteous. Therefore, REPENT! If you do not repent, I will throw you in the furnace of fire.”

This parable gives a sober warning about the final judgment of the unrighteous at the end of the age. In fact, a careful reading of the gospel of Matthew will reveal that “the judgment” or “the day of judgment” appears often in our Lord’s discourses. One of Jesus’ main purposes in His prophecies about the end of the age was to warn the unrighteous that a terrifying judgment awaited them. No one who heard Jesus could plead ignorance about the destiny that awaited the unrighteous. The message was clear and was repeated: “You do not want to be at the judgment. ‘That day’ will be an awesome day of fire and judgment. Flee from the wrath to come! Come to Me (Matthew 11:28) and repent (Matthew 4:15).”

In this parable, the majority of Jesus’ explanation (13:39-42) is devoted to telling of the destiny of the unrighteous. The end of the age has come (13:39, 40). The Son of Man (Jesus Himself) is sending out His angels to clear all the unrighteous out of His kingdom (41) and then to throw them into the furnace of fire. The horror of the event is intended to warn the unrighteous to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:8).

CONCLUSION

The Lord Jesus, who will be the Judge at the end of the age, has given us this parable to picture for us the events of the end of the age. The parable gives the righteous motivation for persevering to the end and warns the unrighteous of the terrifying judgment that awaits them if they do not repent.             SDG                 rmb                 10/11/2021                 #440

Beware of men, but do not fear them (Matthew 10:16-39)

Is it possible for a person to be on their guard against a very real threat without fearing that threat? In Matthew 10:17, Jesus tells His disciples to “beware of men” because they will hate you and will seek to kill you. But then later in the chapter, He says three times for His disciples not to fear (10:26, 28, 31). Isn’t this a contradiction? How can you beware of a person without also fearing that person?

In Matthew 10, Jesus is speaking as King to all His armies of all the ages and telling them about the battle conditions that His disciples will face. What is striking about the passage from 10:16-39 is the number and the constancy of the threats facing Christ’s would-be disciples. Before our Lord even begins recruiting, He clearly tells of the high cost of being one of His followers, and of how you will be hated by all because of His name (10:22), yet Jesus does not appear to mention a single offsetting benefit. This is a most unconventional means of collecting an army of followers!

In this study, we will look at Jesus’ charge to His troops in 10:16, and at the commands He issues to “beware of men” (10:17), but not to fear men (10:26, 28, 31). Our purpose is to understand these instructions from Jesus, and then see how they apply to us in our lives.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

First, then, we want to study Jesus’ charge to us as His soldiers. In Matthew 10:16, our Lord deploys His troops. “Behold, I send you out.” As disciples of Jesus, we need to be aware that we have been called into His army to be sent out. Sent out to do what? To be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). To be His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). To be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). So, we see that the King has sent us out.

Second, we are sheep in the midst of wolves. There can hardly be a greater mismatch. Sheep are utterly defenseless, and wolves are notoriously deadly. In Romans 8:36, Paul says, “We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” The disciple needs to understand that his is a dangerous calling of total commitment. To follow Jesus is to be a sheep among wolves. We are the hated and the hunted.

Therefore, since we are sent out as sheep among wolves, we must be shrewd (wise) as serpents and innocent as doves. Knowing that he has been sent out by his King into a dangerous combat, the disciple must be very wise. What you lack in ferocity and power you must make up for with shrewdness, with canniness. With wisdom we elude the enemy while loudly proclaiming Jesus.

APPLICATION: Although our “battle conditions” here in America still seem fairly benign, we must remember that we are called to be wise as serpents. We are still sheep in the midst of wolves and must advance the Kingdom and proclaim the gospel with shrewdness and cunning. We operate as innocent as doves as we scheme for the gospel. We use ingenuity and craft to “stay under the radar” while advancing the gospel deeper into enemy territory.

“But beware of men.” – Matthew 10:17

BEWARE OF MEN

Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say that His disciples are to be frightened of men and, therefore, to run away from men. He does not say that His disciples are to avoid conflict by avoiding confrontation and proclamation. He simply tells them that they should “beware of men.” This is a tactical command from the King to His soldiers. When you go out under the banner of Jesus, realize you will be hated (John 15:18ff). Therefore, as a practical consideration, you need to be wary of those who hate you and seek your destruction. We are sheep among wolves, so we remain physically vulnerable to death. Jesus commands us to beware of men because He knows that, on our gospel mission, men will try to kill us (Psalm 37:32).

So, do not be naïve! “He who is not with you is against you” (Matthew 12:30). Do not trust those who speak peace with their mouths while they plot to kill you. “There are many who fight proudly against me” (Psalm 56:2). As Jesus’ soldiers, we have a boldness and a zeal for the work of the Kingdom that is tempered by a holy wisdom. We are to beware with boldness.

THEREFORE, DO NOT FEAR MEN

26 Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known.” – Matthew 10:26

28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

– Matthew 10:28

31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:31

Now the King gives His soldiers the supreme command: “Do not fear men.” Three times in this brief section, the Lord tells us not to fear. As a tactical consideration, it is wise to beware of men, but our wariness of men must never cross over into fear of men. The only one who is worthy of our fear is the Lord Himself (Matthew 10:28). Negatively, the Lord is the One who can throw soul and body into hell (10:28), so He should be feared, but positively, the Lord is the One who has bought us at the price of His own Son on the cross. Therefore, we serve Him and worship Him in reverential fear because we have experienced His power. If we fear the Lord, we need to fear nothing else (see Luke 12:4-5). Again, only the Lord is worthy of our fear.

In Old Testament and New, the Lord displays His power and His faithfulness so that His people will trust Him and love Him with a reverential fear.

In Psalm 56:4, the psalmist asks, “What can mere man do to me?”

In Psalm 27:1, “the LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”

In Isaiah 43:1, the LORD says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” If we are redeemed by the LORD, what is there to fear?

In Psalm 103:11, the psalmist declares, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is the LORD’s lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.”

In Romans 8:31, Paul testifies, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

1 John 4:18 proclaims, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

To fear man when the Lord has called us to salvation and has promised He will never leave us or forsake us is to call the Lord’s power into question. Therefore, the professing Christian must be very aware of where he places his fear. The author of Hebrews writes,

“But my righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. – Hebrews 10:38-39

The main teaching of Matthew 10, then, is that we are to faithfully proclaim the gospel with wisdom and with fearlessness. Wisdom, because we are vulnerable sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves, but fearlessness, because no threat of man can take away our eternal reward.

APPLICATION: One of the goals of our sanctification and our discipleship is to arrive at that state of mind, that settledness of soul, where we are so convinced of the truths of God’s Word and of the power of our God that no threat of man would cause us to tremble. For the disciple of Jesus, we aim for ability to say, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), without hesitation and with full conviction. We long for that place where our grip on the Resurrection is so tight that it is as if we were already glorified (Romans 8:30). We overcome fear by the power of the gospel.

Here are ways that I strive to reach that place of fearlessness:

  • Meditate on and study the Resurrection passages in the Bible until you are convinced that you personally will rise with the saints on the Last Day. The certainty of the Resurrection will drive away fear of death.
  • Spend time deeply considering the power of God as displayed in creation and as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the earliest chapters of Genesis, God makes promises, and then He keeps those promises. This requires ultimate sovereignty over all the affairs of His universe. And God has made promises to His people which He will certainly keep. Meditate on these truths until you fully believe the unlimited power of the living God. When you grasp God’s power and believe that He loves you as His child, the fear of man and the fear of death and the fear of the future will lose their hold on you.

SDG                 rmb                  10/7/2021                   #439

Those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12)

The Scripture is very clear that persecution should be expected by the follower of Christ. This is stated in numerous places in the Bible, but perhaps the clearest is 2 Timothy 3:12:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

WHO ARE THESE WHO DESIRE TO LIVE FOR CHRIST?

Who are these men and women “who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus”? The following is not an exhaustive list, but it does present some of the prominent characteristics.

Their lives proclaim that they live for Christ. These people are “tall blades.” By that I mean that they faith is not a private affair hidden under a rock. Rather, their faith is evident in everything about them. If you are looking for a Christian, these are not hard to find.

The light of Christ shines out of them (Matthew 5:16). This is related to the trait above. They let their light shine before men.

They bear much fruit (John 15:5), meaning that their life is rich in good works (Ephesians 2:10). These people are intentional in focusing their energies and their resources in channels that are going to commend Christ and the gospel and that will do good to others.

It is evident that they love the body of Christ. Their love for their brothers and sisters in Christ is almost tangible.

These men and women spend time in prayer and in reading God’s word.

In summary, these men and women are born-again followers of Jesus.

EXPECT PERSECUTION

Because these are born-again followers of Jesus, these men and women joyfully accept persecution as an expected part of following Christ. Jesus Himself promised His disciples, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Our Lord also told of the blessing that comes to those who are persecuted.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

Jesus left us an example to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). He accepted the cross and uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to God the Father, who judges righteously.

Jesus’ apostles clearly told us to expect heat and hatred from the world. Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). And so we as followers of Jesus accept persecution as a stamp of authenticity. As J C Ryle wrote,

“Persecution, in short, is like the goldsmith’s stamp on real silver and gold. It is one of the marks of a converted man.”

THE HEAT IS INCREASING

And so, as we see those who hate Christ rising to places of power, and as we watch out religious freedom being systematically demolished and our ability to worship our God specifically attacked, we must be sure our resolve to persevere to the end is firmly established. Only a very few years ago the idea of severe persecution or martyrdom in America would have been absurd, but no more. With only a little bit of imagination, we can see that what used to be a prayer for far away people has become a real possibility here.

As I was considering my own possible martyrdom and wrestling with an encroaching fear, I went to the Scriptures to again find God’s assurance and peace. Again, 2 Timothy 3:12:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

We will all be persecuted, but we will not all be persecuted in the same way.

Some of those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be martyred as they persevere to the end. They will experience the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6) and will be among the dead in Christ who will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16) in the Resurrection. Their persecution was unto death.

And some of those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will die before the Resurrection but will not die as martyrs. They persevered to the end, but they were not killed for their faith. They will experience the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6) and will be among the dead in Christ who will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16) in the Resurrection. Their persecution was not unto death.

And some of those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be alive and remain until the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). They will persevere to the end and, in the Resurrection, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. Instead, they will be changed (i.e., glorified; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52) in the Resurrection. Their persecution was not unto death.

Those are the three possible outcomes for the true believer, and they all three end in heaven. If we persevere to the end, our eternity will be glorious.

SDG                 rmb                 9/4/2021                     #431

Death obeys Jesus (Luke 7:11-17)

Funerals today were not that different from funerals in the ancient world. The essential elements are the same. There is a dead body that is being carried to a grave. The life of a loved one has ended, and there is no bringing them back. Everyone understands the rules. You can weep and you can wail, or you can suffer silently as you grieve the death of this person who was so recently alive and full of life and who is now cold and silent as a stone, but there is nothing that you can do to remove death from the scene. Death has again stolen from you another of life’s traveling companions. That is just the way it is at funerals. Well, at most funerals. Unless Jesus happens to be passing by.

In the seventh chapter of the gospel of Luke we read of a funeral procession coming out of the city of Nain. It is like every other funeral, because there is a corpse and there is a crowd of mourners walking beside the corpse. In the funerals of two thousand years ago, the coffin was carried by a group of bearers, much as pallbearers carry coffins today, and so the coffin of a young man was being carried out of the city. The dead man was the only begotten son of his mother and she was a widow (Luke 7:12), and so this funeral is marked by an extra degree of sadness, as this widow is now alone in the world. Other than this greater sadness, this is a very ordinary funeral.

Meanwhile, Jesus and His disciples have just arrived in Nain, accompanied by a large crowd, and the Lord approaches the funeral procession. “He felt compassion for her (the widow), and said to her, ‘Do not weep (7:13).’” The Son of God is not stoic or emotionless or distant from those who suffer, but He feels their pain. Jesus knows the damage that sin has done to the world and He feels compassion for human misery and sadness. As any caring Rabbi would do, He comforts those who mourn. So, He said, “Do not weep.”

But Jesus is no ordinary Rabbi whose comfort is limited to compassion.

And He came up and touched the coffin, and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” – Luke 7:14

The crowd had been hushed as Jesus had approached the coffin, wondering what He was going to do. Then Jesus had spoken to the dead man as if he were someone who could respond. The crowd was confused, and His disciples were probably embarrassed. “Jesus, the young man is dead. Imagine the pain You are inflicting on his mother.”

“Young man, I say to you, ARISE!”

The corpse sat up and began to speak. – Luke 7:15

At Jesus’ command, he who was dead came back to life. “And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Jesus’ compassion for the woman was demonstrated in a miraculous act.

REFLECTIONS ON THE STORY

The miracle Jesus performed is so spectacular that it is hard to put into words. How can we get our mind around this event? Imagine being there and witnessing this in person. A dead man who is the subject of the funeral procession is raised to life and begins once again to speak to his mother. It would almost be terrifying to see this. “Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, ‘God has visited His people (Luke 7:16)!’” What can we learn from this event?

First, Jesus displays His deity by speaking the corpse back into life. We see that, when Jesus raises the dead to physical life, it is to demonstrate that He is God in human flesh. This miracle was done for the same reason all His miracles were done, to demonstrate that He is the divine Son of God.

Second, we see from this miracle that death is subject to the Lord Jesus Christ, and because death is subject to Him, when Jesus commands, death must obey. Here, Jesus commanded the dead man to arise, but that meant that He also commanded death to release its grip on the man. At His command, Jesus has authority to remove physical death. Jesus is Lord over death, which means that He is Lord over my death, and He is Lord over your death. Death cannot act except at Jesus’ command. Therefore, Jesus is the one who will determine when death comes to me.

Finally, in this instance with the corpse in Nain we have a foretaste of what will happen on the last day at the end of the age, when instead of a funeral procession it will be a glorious Resurrection. On that day, “all who are in the tombs will hear His voice (the voice of the Son of Man) and will come forth (John 5:28-29).” Instead of rising to die again, all disciples of Jesus will rise to a resurrection of life (John 5:29). This body of our humble state will be transformed into the body of the glorious Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:20-21) and we will rise to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). On that day, Jesus will speak, and we will all rise.

“My people, I say to you, ARISE!”

SDG                 rmb                 5/25/2021 #407

The righteous and the unrighteous (Psalm 1)

In studying the psalms, it is evident that the arrangement of these prayers and poems is not random but is planned for a purpose. This is certainly true of the two psalms that open the psalter. Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are placed at the head of the book of psalms to establish the themes that will be developed throughout the rest of the book. This will be a two-post series on these first two psalms.

PSALM 1

Ever since Adam’s first sin in the Garden, mankind has been divided into the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore, from the beginning of history, there have been two, and only two, groups of humanity, the righteous and the unrighteous. All humanity is included in these two groups. You are either righteous or you are unrighteous, and there is no exception.

Psalm 1 explores the significance of this fact. We have before us the deeds of the righteous and the destiny of the unrighteous. If your life does not evidence the fruit of the righteous, then you will experience the fate of the unrighteous. Built into this psalm is the implicit call to evaluate your own life. Does your life reveal that you are among the righteous or the unrighteous? If among the unrighteous, will you heed the warning? The psalm certainly commends the righteous, but it also certainly warns the unrighteous that they are in great peril.

THE RIGHTEOUS

The psalm begins by pouring blessing and accolade on the righteous for the company he avoids (Psalm 1:1). He does not allow the deeds and the lifestyle of the unrighteous to influence him to ungodly behavior. Therefore, he will not walk with the wicked nor stand with sinners nor sit with scoffers. Notice that the righteous man is called blessed for that choice: “How blessed is the man.”

How, then, does the righteous spend his time? The righteous person delights in God’s word (Psalm 1:2), reading the Bible not with a sense of drudgery or duty, but with a sense of pleasure and privilege. “Here are the very words of the living God and so I will dwell and feast as on my necessary food.” The truth of the Word gives the righteous all things pertaining to life and godliness.

For the one who does not walk with the wicked but delights in the Law of the LORD, there is a fourfold promise of blessing. He will be firmly planted, his life will yield rich fruit, he will have a full life, and everything that he does prospers (Psalm 1:3).

THE WICKED (UNRIGHTEOUS)

“The wicked are not so.”

The contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous is abrupt and absolute. For the wicked, for those who remain unrighteous in the sight of God, there is no blessing, either now or in the future. Instead of a tree firmly planted, they are chaff blown away (Psalm 1:4), here today, gone tomorrow, and forever forgotten. Their legacy is like smoke in a gale and their memory is a morning mist.

Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. – Psalm 1:5

But while their impact on earth is forgotten, their lawless deeds are vividly remembered in heaven. There is a judgment coming when all unrighteousness will receive a just recompense. In God’s final judgment, the wicked will be declared guilty and forever condemned, and will be cast headlong into eternal torment. “The wicked will not stand in the judgment.” All unforgiven sinners will be excluded from the assembly of the righteous in heaven.

Again, the LORD makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.

“The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” – Psalm 1:6

The LORD blesses the path of the righteous and the life of the righteous on earth, and the LORD will welcome the righteous into heaven forever. But “The way of the wicked will perish.” The word “perish” does not speak of oblivion or of annihilation but speaks of losing all sense of any good or mercy or peace forever while never being delivered from judgment. “Perish” is a word intended to evoke dread. “Perish” is a wrath word and a judgment word and a retribution word, a word of ultimate misery and hopelessness of relief. The LORD blesses the life of the righteous, but He curses the way of the unrighteous.

LESSON FOR THE RIGHTEOUS

Who are the righteous? Who are these who can proclaim before God their righteousness? The righteous are all those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. These have been declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ and their faith has been reckoned to them as righteousness. For the righteous, this psalm commends their ongoing obedience and promises them blessings from the LORD.

LESSON FOR THE UNRIGHTEOUS

And what if you realize you are among the unrighteous? That is, what can you do if your deeds have been wicked, and you have long walked contentedly along the path with the sinners? Is there any remedy for the one who longs to escape the judgment and to stand in the assembly of the righteous? O, hear the good news! Salvation is promised to anyone who will repent of their sins and who will bow down to Jesus Christ as Lord of their life. “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).” Anyone who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has passed from death to life (John 5:24) and is, at the moment of initial faith, counted as righteous.

If you would be righteous, you must believe in Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 5/24/2021 #406