Reading Psalm 1 in Light of Jesus and His Kingdom – Part 2 of 2

If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, you will want to do so before reading this one because I pick up here right where I left off there.

Not only does the New Testament tell us that we have a new and specific meaning to ascribe to “Lord” in the Old Testament through Jesus Christ, we also learn in the New Testament that the Lord Jesus has a different law for us to follow than what Moses laid down.  Of course, Jesus does not discard the words of Moses; He just stops interpreting them according to the flesh.  That is, Jesus doesn’t care about physical circumcision, about which foods we eat, or about whether our oxen are muzzled or not.  Rather He cares about whether we love God and neighbor, and He uses the true and underlying meaning of Moses’ laws to teach us that.  Hebrews 7:12 speaks explicitly of the “change in law” that occurred when Psalm 110 was fulfilled.  1 Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2 each speak of this “law of Christ.”  James called it “the perfect law” (James 1:25) and Paul called it the proper summation of all the commandments: love (Romans 13:8-10).

Therefore, when you read Psalm 1, not only think of the Lord personally as Jesus.  Also think of His “law” as what it specifically is: love…as Jesus practiced it.  This supreme love is devotion to God and selflessness toward others.  This makes Psalm 1 much  more of a guiding light than it would be otherwise.  This same approach should be used with all the references to Lord in the Old Testament because Jesus came to put a face on God (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Jesus makes the Bible (including passages such as Psalm 1) far more personal to us from God than they would be otherwise.  This is the kingdom of God – rejoice in it!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

GICNAT

Reading Psalm 1 in Light of Jesus and His Kingdom – Part 1 of 2

In Acts 2:36 the apostle Peter boldly declares that in raising Jesus of Nazareth from the dead God was declaring Jesus to be “Lord.”  This term had very specific meaning in the Old Testament, appearing in thousands of verses.  Jesus had foretold that the Messiah would be Lord in Matthew 22: 41-46 when He was challenging the Pharisees with the riddle of Psalm 110 (where the Messiah, who was David’s son, was also declared to be David’s Lord – a paradox only resolved by the resurrection of Messiah).  Peter made reference to Psalm 110 himself in Acts 2:34-35.

On the basis of Jesus inheriting the title “Lord,” Peter could also declare in that same Pentecost sermon that whoever called upon the name of Jesus was calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21, which is a quote of Joel 2:32).  Paul, by the way, made a similar declaration of Jesus being Lord in Romans 10:9 and that He thus inherited the position of Lord in Joel 2:32 (in Romans 10:13).

That Jesus inherited the title of “Lord” from the Old Testament means that He is now seen as the grantor of such promises and we, those who trust in Him, are recipients of those promises.  (Jesus had inherited all from the Father: Isaiah 22:24; John 3:35; 16:15; Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1:2.)  Thus, all the promises of God are activated for Jews and Gentiles in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Taking Psalm 1 as an example (You could similarly take any of the thousands of Old Testament passages that apply to “Lord”), let’s read it in this new personalized way Jesus has made for us.  Whenever and wherever you see the word “Lord” substitute “the Lord Jesus” or “Jesus” or “Christ” or “Messiah” – you get the idea.  See if this does’t make the Scripture come more alive to you.  The apostles were clear and consistent that Jesus had been made “Lord” not just in the general sense of being a leader, but in the specific sense of becoming the “Lord” mentioned in all the Old Testament promises.

This is how the promises of God work in the kingdom of God.  The days of ancient Israel and the church are over; these are the days of the kingdom of God, and they will never end.  Jesus is Lord!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

GICNAT

Let Us Read the Old Testament as Jesus Taught His Apostles to Read It

Jesus embraced every word of what we call the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-19; John 10:35).  Nevertheless, He understood it in a whole new way never previously contemplated by His critics.  To be specific, He interpreted it spiritually.  All prior interpretation had been according to the flesh.  (For an explanation of this difference, see Walking in the Spirit and Not in the Flesh.)

When He was raised from the dead, Jesus taught His disciples about how the Scriptures really testified about Him (Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48).  Other scriptures verified this point (2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5:39-40).

To get you thinking along the lines that Jesus thought, considered the following list, quickly compiled, which gives examples of how the original meaning of an Old Testament verse, idea, or place, was being given new meaning through the New Testament which did not begin to be written until after Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Jew – Romans 2:28-29
circumcision – Romans 2:28-29
Israel – Galatians 6:16
twelve tribes – James 1:1; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30
Jerusalem – Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12; 21:2,10
Mount Zion – Hebrews 12:22
temple – 1 Corinthians 6:19
worship – Romans 12:1-2; John 4:20-24; Matthew 28:17
altar – Hebrews 13:10
sacrifice – Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15-16
lamb – John 1:29, 36; 1 Peter 1:19
blood – 1 Peter 1:19/ Hebrews 10:4
oxen – 1 Corinthians 9:9
sabbath – Colossians 2:16
passover – 1 Corinthians 5:7
leaven – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Note also that Hebrews 7:12 speaks of a change in priesthood and a change in law.  Hebrews 8:6 speaks of a more excellent ministry and a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises.  All these are Old Testament concepts which Jesus viewed in a new way.  There is even more I could have listed.  The point is that Jesus read the same words in the Old Testament that everyone else saw, but He interpreted them very differently from any of His predecessors or contemporaries.  He showed the new and better way that had been planned by God all along (Galatians 3:23).

Let us read the Bible the way Jesus taught His apostles to read it…and whole new vistas of understanding will be opened to us!  Alas, if we don’t read it this way, we’ll just remain blind.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Significance of the Name Joshua

Hoshea the son of Nun represented the tribe of Ephraim among the twelve spies that were chosen to scout the promised land.  He was a valiant man, only one of two spies who were brave enough to recommend entering Canaan after “giants” were spotted there.  Moses was impressed enough to give him a new name.  Joshua.  (Numbers 13:8, 16)

The name Joshua is a combination of the words for “Lord” and “salvation.”  Therefore, the name speaks to “the Lord saving.”  This helps illustrate that the one who follows Moses would ultimately be “God” Himself who “saves” or “delivers” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22-23).  Joshua is thus a type of Christ.  In fact, the name Jesus is but the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.  When the angel told Joseph to name Mary’s baby “Jesus,” he was telling him to name the baby “Joshua” (Matthew 1:21).  Indeed, “the Lord” would be doing the “saving.”

Joshua was Moses’ assistant, and became Moses’ successor.  Of course, Jesus of Nazareth (“Joshua of Nazareth” would be more like it) succeeded Moses in the most dramatic of ways (resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven).  There are so many points of comparison between Moses and Joshua (Jesus).  One of the greatest was given to us by John in his gospel: “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:18).

When Moses gave Hoshea the name Joshua, it was God who was at work in that process.  The name Joshua is quite significant – so much so that God Himself took it as His personal name when He walked the earth as a man.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Through Jesus We Have Better Promises

Hebrews 8:6 says that Jesus is “the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.”

Some think that the original promises are found in the Old Testament and that the better promises are found in the New Testament.  This is not true.  Actually, both the original and the better promises are found in the Old Testament (the New Testament merely repeats the better promises).  Furthermore, the original promises and the better promises are actually the same promises – it’s the same words understood differently.  Let me explain.

The last verse of Psalm 91 promises “With a long life will I satisfy him…”  This is the original promise.  It is also the better promise.  The original promise spoke to life on earth; the better promise speaks to life in eternity.  See how it’s better?

Another example can be found in Jeremiah 29:11 where God originally promised, “For I know the plans that I have for you…to give you a future and hope.”  This meant, of course, that He was promising the Jews a future for their country at a time when they were despondent.  The better promise is that He’s promising to give an eternal future, and not just to Jews but to everyone.  Without a resurrection from the dead, humanity had no future or hope – at least not beyond this life.  See how this promise, too, has become better through Jesus Christ?

Not all promises are transformed in exactly the same way, but all are indeed transformed.  This is the basis upon which we (that is, all humanity) have a better covenant!

All verses quoted in this post are from the New American Standard Bible.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

A Dry Morsel Is Better Than a Feast When…

Proverbs 17:1 (NASB) reads:

Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it

Than a house full of feasting with strife.

This proverbs requires no explanation for its face value.  However, I would apply it to spiritual matters in this way: I think of the “dry morsel” as any memorized verse of Scripture.  I think of the “house full of feasting with strife” as my heart when it’s busy or crowded with too many thoughts.  Thus, whenever my heart is in this state, I am better off forsaking those many thoughts and meditating on any verse of Scripture.

Furthermore, if I continue meditating on that verse – no matter which one it is – God will soon begin speaking in my heart by His Holy Spirit words that are not dry at all (John 7:37-39).

Blessed is the heart that always gives a home to the word of God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Remember the Jar of Manna

Exodus 16 tells the story of how God “rained bread from heaven” upon the children of Israel in the desert.  This bread was called “manna” and it fed the Israelites daily for forty years, its provision was only withdrawn when they departed from the desert and entered the promised land which “flowed with milk and honey” (that is, a better and more abundant provision).

The Scriptures also tell of how a sample of this manna was stored in a jar and kept in the ark of the covenant which resided in the heart of Israel’s temple (Exodus 16:33; Hebrews 9:4).  This jar of manna symbolized the sacred Scriptures – that is, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) which we have today.  The  Bible is the written word of God.  It confirms to us that God indeed does speak to mankind.  It also provides a standard by which we may compare any word of God we think we hear.  That is, since God cannot contradict Himself, we know that any words we hear from God today in our hearts cannot contradict what the Bible says.

We live in the day of the Lord (that is, the day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6,10).  The heavens and earth are themselves the temple of the Lord (Isaiah 66:1).  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself fills the heavens and the earth (Jeremiah 23:24).  The “jar of manna” described above – that is, the Scriptures – sits before Him, testifying about His willingness to rain bread down from heaven on all those who hunger for His righteousness – and testifying about the kingdom of God which is in our midst, and which flows with milk and honey for all those who find His righteousness.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Writer of Hebrews Warns

In Hebrews 6:1ff the writer urges his readers to move beyond the elementary teaching of Christ to the mature teaching about Him.  This is because the day of Christ’s return was rapidly approaching (Hebrew 10:23-25) and only those who were prepared would see Him on that day (Hebrews 9:28; 12:14).  Of course, this “seeing” would be by faith (Hebrews 11:1) which “sees” the One who  is unseen (Hebrews 11:27).

The Epistle to the Hebrews was an exhortation (Hebrews 13:22) to its recipients that only faith would sustain them in the then rapidly approaching day of the Lord.  That day came and we still live in it today because it is an eternal day.  When the Second Coming of Christ occurred, it was witnessed by faith, not by sight.

Why did Jesus go to all the trouble to teach faith if His Second Coming could be experienced without it?  (Luke 18:8)

See the post Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Church Was a Great Assembly of Witnesses as Ancient Israel Had Been a Great Assembly of Witnesses

You may have read yesterday’s post about the role of the New Testament church in bearing witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.  Without that church we would not have the New Testament documents which are today our only significant historical source for the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth.

In producing and preserving the New Testament documents, the New Testament church was following the pattern of ancient Israel which itself existed to document and preserve the history of God’s workings so that it would be available in the time of Christ.  I am speaking here, of course, about the Old Testament documents.

Therefore the sacred writings which have been handed down to us (Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:19-21) have been attested to by thousands upon thousands of people.  There is no more reason to doubt the authenticity of the Bible than there is to doubt the authenticity of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

An Abundance of Witnesses for Christ

One of the primary purposes of the New Testament church was to bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

We often think of Jesus’ twelve apostles as His witnesses, and we are right to do so (Acts 1:8).  There were also additional apostles called to bear witness to Him – Saul of Tarsus being the most notable among them.  We should also consider, however, that the church that all the apostles built throughout the Mediterranean world was witness to them and the Lord as well.

Many Jews of Palestine witnessed the works of Christ (“multitudes” followed Him).  Many of them became part of the church that the apostles led.  Over 500 witnessed Jesus after He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6).  These many disciples of Palestine therefore are witness to Christ and to the apostles.  Had Peter, John, and the others been lying about Jesus, it could not have escaped notice.  Too many people were eyewitnesses of the Nazarene.

And it wasn’t just the Jews of Palestine who knew the truth about Jesus of Nazareth.  Even though Jews were dispersed throughout the world, it was commonplace for many of them to return to Jerusalem for feasts such as  Passover (which would have made many of them present for Jesus’ crucifixion) and Pentecost (which would have made many of them present for the launch of the church through Peter’s inaugural sermon in Acts 2).

Thus, many more people saw the miracles of the Lord besides the twelve.  At any given synagogue at which the apostles stopped to tell the good news about Jesus there were likely to be some who had been to Jerusalem and heard these things before.  Thus, there was often corroboration for the apostles’ claims.  The very fact that there was a New Testament church therefore bears abundant witness to the basic facts of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Yes, many in the church believed without seeing (John 20:29)…but there were also many who had seen and believed as well.

People who think 1st Century testimony about Christ is sparse are simply ignoring an abundance of witnesses.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Bible Is the Book of Jesus

The Bible is the book of Jesus.  It is by Jesus and it is about Jesus – from beginning to end.  This was not known initially.  It was, however, made clear when the New Testament documents were being written.  Therefore, to talk about any part of the Bible without reference to Jesus is to miss its point.

The Bible is “by Jesus” because the Holy Spirit was motivating all those who wrote its words.  The many different authors over many different generations had a common inspiration: the Holy Spirit of God.  See 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.  The Holy Spirit of God is, of course, the Holy Spirit of Jesus (see Jesus Christ Is God).

The Bible is “about Jesus” because He is its constant reference point.  This point is unquestioned when it comes to the New Testament documents, which talk about Him explicitly and continually.  That He is equally the focal point of the Old Testament documents is a point made more subtly.  It was not apparent at all at the time they were written, except for those prophecies of Messiah which were unmistakable.   That the rest of the Old Testament also spoke of Him was made clear by the Lord Himself after He rose from the dead (Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48; John 5:39, 46).  This revelation is implicit in all the writings of the apostles as they constantly quote the Old Testament with reference to Him.

Therefore, the Bible cannot be read left to right as you would normally read an English document, for the New Testament gives the Old Testament a particular meaning which was not apparent to its original readers.  To be specific about it, the Old Testament was originally understood according to the flesh and through Christ is now to be understood in the spirit (Walking in the Spirit and Not in the Flesh).  Earthly to heavenly is another way of characterizing this change in interpretation.  It’s as if the entire Old Testament was a collection of illustrations (a vast library of conceptual audio-visual aids, if you will) which needed the reality of Christ’s life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to make clear what was being illustrated.

That the adherents of Judaism would want to read the Old Testament without reference to Christ is understandable (albeit misguided and self-defeating) since they are trying to preserve their religious/cultural way of life.  What’s more mystifying is why anyone who claims to be a Christian would want to read the Old Testament without reference to Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is talking about any portion of the Bible without referring to Christ they are wasting your time as well as their own.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

GICNAT

The Tent…and Then the Temple Once Again

In yesterday’s post, I described how we see the earthly life of Jesus and the heavenly life of Jesus in Israel’s tent and temple respectively.  That is, the tent of meeting constructed by Moses in the desert and the grand temple constructed by Solomon gave us a type or pattern of Messiah who came to us first in the flesh and then forever in the spirit.

In this pattern we can also see Messiah as He was in the church (the tent) and as He is in the kingdom of God (the temple).  That is, the church we see in the New Testament was a temporary organization in which Christ dwelt in anticipation of the coming kingdom.  Actually, it was more of an organism or movement than it was an organization.  The leadership structure was very light (the apostles, other traveling ministers, and local leaders whom the apostles appointed), and the trappings of church we see today were practically non-existent (no buildings, no denominations, no seminaries).  And there was certainly no succession plan in place for a new generation of leadership of this church because it would quickly give way to the kingdom of God which every writer of a New Testament book expected in that generation.  For this reason, the temporary nature of Moses’ tent of meeting accurately pictures for us the temporary nature of the church.  Moreover, had the Israelites not been so rebellious they could have conquered Canaan and started construction on the temple hundreds of years before Sol0mon was born.  Similarly, today’s churches march around in the wilderness generation after generation because they do not seek the kingdom of God.

As for the kingdom of God, its permanence is illustrated by Jerusalem’s temple.  Jesus reigns as King in the spiritual Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22).  When Jesus came in the fullness of His Father’s glory (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again), the kingdom came to earth (Revelation 21:2) and became permanent – that is, eternal!  It will never be shaken from without (Hebrews 12:29-30), nor can it be corrupted from within (Daniel 7:14).  This is because unlike Israel and the church before it, the kingdom relies on no one but the Lord Himself for leadership (Isaiah 2:11, 17).  Truly, the kingdom is His (Obadiah 1:21).

Therefore, forsake the tent and seek the Lord in His temple (Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Tent…and Then the Temple

When God gave the Law to Moses with all its rituals for animal sacrifice and worship, He prescribed His tabernacle to be in a tent.  This was a practical consideration.  The Israelites had just been redeemed from slavery in Egypt and did not yet have a land of their own.  They were therefore a “mobile” nation.  The “tent of meeting” therefore was entirely appropriate for them as a center of their worship.

Once the Israelites had occupied the promised land, however, it was appropriate that God’s tabernacle become a permanent structure.  For this reason King David made preparations for the great temple that his son King Solomon actually built.  So great was the accomplishment that monarchs from distant lands (including the Queen of Sheba) came to see if all that they had heard about it and Solomon was true.

Thus there was a time in Israel’s history for a tent (that is, a temporary structure) and there was a time in that history for a temple (that is, a permanent structure).  As it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything.

The tent signifies the life of Jesus of Nazareth – the days when the Messiah of Israel lived in human form.  His fleshly body was mobile and was temporary…because He needed to move.  I’m not so much speaking about moving around on the earth as I am moving from earth to Sheol (Hades) below at His death (Ephesians 4:9-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20, and then ascending all the way to heaven.  Once He returned to heaven (the place from which He had originally come), He was able to take a seat.  The promised land was heaven and it was time for Jesus to have a permanent temple:  heaven itself.

Thus the tent is Jesus on earth; the temple is Jesus in heaven.  The first is mobile, the second is immovable.  The first is of dust, the second is of spirit.  The first is temporary, the second is eternal.

Do not look for a tent when a temple is where He is dwelling (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again).  As it says in Hebrews 10:9, He takes away the first in order to establish the second.  Why then should we look for Him to go back to the first?  (That is, why should we expect a Second Coming of Jesus in the flesh?)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

God Got Our Attention in the Flesh That We Might Pay Attention to Him in the Spirit

God is spirit.  Invisible.  He was made flesh through Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah of Israel.  Through this life, which was chronicled in the four gospels, He got the world’s attention.

Jesus got our attention by the life He lived, the miracles He performed, and the teaching He imparted.  This great life ended in the spectacle of a painful and humiliating crucifixion.  After that, Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He was then proclaimed throughout the world as Lord of heaven and earth by His apostles.

Why didn’t they proclaim Him as Lord in the days of His flesh?  Wouldn’t that have made it easier for people to see Him and relate to Him?  Maybe…but that wasn’t the point.  God’s purpose was to direct our attention to the spirit, to unseen things.  That’s why Jesus’ lordship wasn’t proclaimed until He was taken from us.  God had gotten our attention in the flesh that we might pay attention to Him in the spirit.

The spirit is where God always dwelt before.  The spirit is where God will dwell throughout all the days of eternity.  He only came to earth for that short time so that He might gain our attention…and take it to heaven.

Therefore, set your affections on things above (Colossians 3:1-2), not on the physical things of this earth (Philippians 3:18-19).  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6-8).  Though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we now and forever know Him according to the spirit (2 Corinthians 5:16).

Those who stay attached to the flesh and do not turn to the spirit will not be able to recognize that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.  They are like a bush in the desert; they do not see prosperity when it comes (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

“Woe to the Shepherds Who Scatter My Sheep”

The title of this post is a warning issued by the Lord, and recorded in Jeremiah 23:1.  To whom would it apply today?  Surely to the leaders of the over 30,000 Christian denominations that exist.  These leaders have scattered in at least 30,000 different directions the sheep for whom Christ died!  We could say that’s scattering to a maximum degree…but number keeps rising!

These leaders (whether they are popes, bishops, pastors, elders, deacons, overseers – whatever) would do well to release the sheep under them so that all might return to the one good Shepherd (John 10:11) – that is, the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).  He is the Lord (Psalm 23).  Woe to those shepherds who do not.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Why Are We in Rebellion Against the Kingdom of God?

Look around the world today.  You see humanity largely in revolt against the rule of God.  Why is this?  What do people think they are going to gain by opposing the will of the Sovereign of the universe?

God rules all creation through Jesus Christ.  More precisely, God, who lived among us as Jesus Christ, rules all creation.  He speaks to every human being through His Holy Spirit.  He speaks of righteousness.  Those who listen to Him and obey Him experience peace and joy (Romans 14:17).  This has nothing to do with church.  It has nothing to do with religion.  It has nothing to do with the self-serving plans that often characterize our lives.  It has to do with the gentle whisperings of a loving but omnipotent God.  These whisperings come deep in our hearts and are heard only by those whose hearts seek to do the right thing in life.

All the destruction you see in the world is either done directly by the hand of humanity or is a judgment from God in response to our sinfulness.  Yet He takes no delight in sending judgment for our sins.  His great desire is that we repent so that judgment won’t have to come.  For this reason He submitted Himself to horrible rejection and persecution – even to crucifixion and death.  He brought the message of life and love to us.  If we heed it, then He will deliver us from all evil.

The sacraments of the church are as passe as are the sacrifices of animals.  God doesn’t want sacraments or sacrifices – He wants obedience to His will in everyday life!  (Hebrews 10:5-9)

Rebellion is foolish!  Stop sinning…and live for God.  Psalm 2 may have been written three thousand years ago, but its words ring true through the kingdom of God more loudly than ever.  “Honor the Son, lest He become angry and you perish in the way.”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God Reigns!

The reason that God no longer works through Israel or the church is that the kingdom of God has come.  Everything He did through Israel and the church was preparation for His glorious kingdom.  Everything He did through Israel and the church was temporary.  Everything in the kingdom is eternal. 

During the days of Israel and the church, everyone went to Sheol (Hades) when they died.  Now, everyone goes to heaven.

During the days of Israel and the church, He appointed humans to represent Him.  Now, He represents Himself (Jesus Christ is God).

During the days of Israel and the church, humanity was divided: the Jews and the Gentiles, then the believers and the unbelievers.  Now, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, there is no distinction between believer and unbeliever.  This is not to say that faith is unimportant, for indeed without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  In fact, the righteousness of faith is all the more important because judgment is upon us – the judgment promised in Acts 17:30-31 and referenced briefly in Acts 24:25.  This is the judgment long promised by Israel’s prophets and wherein Paul said God would judge the secrets of our hearts through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:14-16).  Therefore, we must repent!

How do we repent?  And how to we submit to the kingdom of God?  Follow the path of Matthew 11:28-30.  It’s just that simple: Come to Jesus.  He is the King.  His is the kingdom.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The “Last Days” of the New Testament Were the “Last Days of the Church”

The expression “last days” appears five times in the New Testament (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3).  In two of these instances, that time is considered to be soon.  In three instances, that time is considered to have come.  Since we who live today occupy the same space-time universe as the apostles, they must have meant something other than “last days of the space-time universe.”  What then did they mean?

The “last days” mentioned in the Bible are “the last days of the church” or, more broadly, the “last days of Israel” as God’s chosen people (the church was “the remnant of Israel” that was saved in the last days – see Romans 9:27 which is quoting Isaiah 10:22).  We still have a nation of Israel today and we still have churches today.  However, neither is an instrument of God as they were in biblical times. (Yesterday’s post dealt with this.)

What then would come after the “last days”?  The kingdom of God.  It is eternal.  (See The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now.)  We are well beyond the last days of Israel and the church.  We are in the days of the kingdom of God.  And, God be praised, we always will be!

Related posts:

          “The Last Days” of the New Testament

          Where Is the Spirit of the New Testament Church Today?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Choose Christ – Not the Trinity

This post corresponds to the post There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ from today’s A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom, and identifies more Bible passages as reference points.

Who is Lord – Christ or the Trinity?  Your choice is important because it determines who you will follow.

The Bible says Jesus is Lord.  If Jesus is Lord, the Trinity can’t be the Lord because Jesus is considered “the second person of the Trinity.”

The man-made doctrine of the Trinity distracts from the biblical doctrine of Christ.  The doctrine of Christ teaches that Jesus is the head over all things.  How can the “head” be the second person of anything?

To be sure, there was a time when Jesus lived entirely in submission – as every human being should.  This was a temporary role for Him however.  He did it to set an example for us.  He was submitted to “the Father” – which for Him meant submitting to the laws He Himself had laid down long before He ever descended to the earth to become a man.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, He was made head of the church.  But since the Second Coming (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again) He’s been the head of all things.

Do you think Jesus is still at the right hand of God waiting to come to earth?  If so, then you must think that the dead are still not raised and therefore no human being has yet ascended to heaven to be with Jesus (for the dead don’t rise until He comes again per Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Moreover, we’re all still lost because He didn’t come in the time frame that He specified (the generation of His contemporaries per Matthew 24:34 and elsewhere).  But the good news is that all these things have happened…just as He promised!

Therefore, Jesus now has first place in everything (Colossians 1:18).  All things have been summed up in Christ who is ruling an administration suitable to the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10): that is, the kingdom of God.

In Colossians 2:9 Paul told us that all the fullness of Deity dwelt in Jesus.  How then do Trinitarians say that Jesus is only 1/3 of the Deity?

If you are serious about following God with your life, you need a way to follow Him.  That way is Jesus Christ our Lord.  No one can follow a Trinity.  It is an concept to be discussed, not a way that can be followed.

The Israelites had complained to Moses that they needed to hear the message of God through the voice of a man.  God graciously granted this request by coming to us and expressing His will as Jesus of Nazareth.  He not taught us His will, He demonstrated it.  After God has done all this for us, are we to minimize His grace by constructing a man-made tabernacle of “understanding” over it?

Choose this day whom you will serve: Jesus our Lord or the Trinity.  You can’t serve both.

Here is a link to many more posts on the Trinity versus Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.  

GICNAT

The Apostles Said False Teachers Would Succeed Them

Yesterday’s post outlined the corruption of false teaching that afflicted the New Testament church, and how the coming of the kingdom of God solved the problem by replacing the church as God’s instrument (For more explanation of how the kingdom came, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again).  Note that the kingdom of God did not eliminate the church because we still have the church with us today.  The difference is that with the coming of the kingdom, Christ abandoned the church to rule His kingdom.  Therefore, the church has been a man-made institution ever since. 

Here’s the irony: Today’s churches claim their legitimacy either from the apostles or the Scriptures (which were written by the apostles).  Either way, today’s church leaders condemn themselves because the apostles said they would be succeeded in the church by false teachers.  Had the apostles laid out some succession plan, whereby they designated certain people or certain kinds of people to inherit their authority over the church, then today’s church leaders would have some claim to legitimacy.  As it is, however, the apostles were very clear that people should seek the kingdom of God and not follow the false teachers who would seek to perpetuate the church as an institution for the sake of their own interests.

There was to be only one true successor to the apostles – and that was the Lord Himself!  (“And when the Chief Shepherd appears…” 1 Peter 5:4)

For more explanation, see Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament Church Was Glorious, But Was Being Corrupted

The New Testament church was a glorious movement of people devoted to a resurrected Lord.  This movement arose from the public declarations of eyewitnesses to that resurrection.  These witnesses were called “apostles” – a word meaning “sent ones.”  They were so named because they were sent by Jesus of Nazareth, the One who had risen from the dead.  His instructions to them were that they were to tell the world what they had seen and heard of Him.

The apostles were persecuted for telling this truth.  So also were those who believed them – that is, the New Testament church.  This is the essence of their glory (both of the apostles and of the church they led), that they steadfastly confessed and served Jesus Christ in the face of constant and often murderous persecution.

As the movement grew, there was also, however, a creeping corruption.  Not a corruption of the apostles, for we see them being faithful to the end.  Peter, Paul, John continued to bear faithful witness to the Lord right up until their deaths, and we have their writings to prove it.  Nor did all their followers become corrupt.  However, as the movement gained more and more adherents, it naturally attracted those whose motives were not as pure (We see incipient examples in Acts 5 and Acts 8).  This is true of any movement of history, whether of God or man.

God was not surprised by this increasing corruption.  Jesus and the apostles all warned repeatedly of it.  To mention just a few examples of these warnings, see Matthew 24-25, 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 2, and Jude.  In Acts 20:29-30 Paul writes that false teachers would arise both from within and from without the church.  The entire book of Galatians is Paul’s defense of his own ministry in the face of competing false teachers.  You can’t read the New Testament and miss these warnings.

God would deal with the corruption.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the self-aggrandizing nature of some leaders was the corruption that made the church unsuitable as the permanent instrument of God, just as the nation of Israel was unworthy as a permanent instrument.  The only suitable and worthy instrument was a kingdom managed entirely by God without any help from us.  Therefore, when you go to God today you go directly to Him.  Organized religion – because it is organized by humans – is an environment that will always be subject to corruption.  God dealt with the corruption by the coming of His kingdom (called “The kingdom of God” or “The kingdom of heaven”).  Those with sincere faith experienced it, and the rest missed it like people miss a thief in the night (2 Thessalonians 1 and 2; see also 5:1-6).  This was the separation of sheep and goats that Jesus had described in Matthew 25.

Therefore, while you may admire what you see of the church in the New Testament, do not ever think you can replicate it – or even that you should replicate it.  It was a temporary structure which, while glorious for a time, would eventually give way to corruption…as all human institutions do.  God Himself rules us through His kingdom.  Serve Him now with a whole heart.  He will search your heart and will not be content until all evil is removed from it.  Human religious leaders, by contrast, cannot even see into your heart.  How could they – no matter how sincere their intentions – possibly offer a kingdom as good as God’s?

Here are some related posts:

There Will Never Be Another New Testament Church Just as There Will Never Be Another Ancient Israel

The New Testament Church Was Unique

The New Testament Church Gave Its Life To Birth the Kingdom of God

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

God Destroyed Jerusalem for the Same Reason He Abandoned the Church

History records that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D.  This destruction was prophesied by Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament just as Isaiah and Jeremiah had prophesied its earlier destruction which occurred in 586 B.C.

Actually, it was the Babylonians who did the destroying in the earlier conquest and the Romans who performed the later one.  Nevertheless, neither the Romans nor the Babylonians could have succeeded unless God had removed His protective hedge from around Israel.  And for what reason did God remove it?  The sinfulness of Jerusalem and Israel.

For this same reason, God abandoned the New Testament church in its last days because it had become corrupt in the same way that Jerusalem had become corrupt.  Its leaders were more interested in self-aggrandizing than in serving God.  This, too, had been prophesied by Jesus and the apostles (Matthew 24:10-12; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Timothy 3:1-17).

If God is no longer using Israel and no longer using the church to represent Him in the world today, how then is He presenting Himself?  Through the resurrected, ascended, and crowned Jesus Christ!  As He says through Isaiah (Isaiah 59:16), when He saw that there was no man to intercede, He brought salvation by “His own arm.”  This speaks of the kingdom of God which reigns supreme in our midst (Luke 17:20-21).

There is not, there never has been, and there never will be, a human being who is pure enough, strong enough, and wise enough to be a completely reliable intermediary between God and man – except for Jesus of Nazareth.

If you would seek the kingdom of God, seek Jesus…for He is its King!  You know His name – that’s all you need to know.  Look to heaven and call on Him.  His thoughts will come to your heart – especially as you trust Him and do good to those around you.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Work of Our Eternal Salvation Is Accomplished, and We Have the Written Record of It

Everyone knows what humanity’s biggest problem is.  Even people who don’t read or believe the Bible know.  Humanity’s biggest problem is, of course, death.

The Bible tells the story of how death came to be.  It goes on to set the stage for what God would do about this greatest of all our problems.  The Old Testament view of the afterlife was that all people, whether righteous or unrighteous, went to Sheol when they died. (Sheol is a Hebrew term; Hades is the Greek name for the same place.)  No Hebrew figure ever descended into Sheol and returned, although an apparition of the recently deceased Samuel briefly appeared to Saul when summoned by the medium at Endor (1 Samuel 28; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).  The New Testament, with a great deal of help from the Old Testament, described how God was using Jesus Christ to alter this state of affairs – in effect, closing up Sheol and opening up heaven.  Thus, everyone is going to heaven, just as surely as everyone used to go to Sheol.

This is eternal salvation, because it deals with what affects us for eternity.  It solves the problem of death…permanently.  In this earth, there are many situations in which we require salvation or deliverance – and God is pleased to grant it.  But we should not allow our need for temporal help to obscure the importance of what God has already accomplished for all of us with regard to the ultimate “situation.”  How we get to heaven may vary.  It may be a long path or a short one.  It may be a crooked one or a straight one.  No matter the route, our destination is assured – for we were predestined for heaven (1 Corinthians 2:7 and elsewhere).  In biblical times, people had to wait in Sheol for the ultimate trip.  But we who live since biblical times go straight to heaven when we die for there is no longer a Sheol below.

The Bible records all of this for us.  It is so awe-inspiring and so satisfying to know that our eternal redemption has been fully achieved, and that the Bible sits as a clear, trustworthy, and eternal witness to that most wonderful fact!

It is written.  Amen.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Don’t Try to Be the People of God; Instead, Act Like It!

In yesterday’s post, I explained why we shouldn’t try to be the people of God – because we already are.  Since we are the people of God, however, we ought to act like it!

We have the “people” part down; it’s the “of God” part that is giving us trouble.  That’s where we need to repent. 

If we are “of God” we ought to trust Him, pray to Him, and walk with Him.  We ought to treat others the way He treated them…and the way He treats us. 

What’s the point of being the people of God if our behavior bears no resemblance to His?

 See Luke 6:46-49 and Romans 2:24.  By the way, reading the Bible doesn’t make us anymore the people of God than anyone else, but it certainly gives us less excuse to act ungodly.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Stop Trying to Become the People of God!

Would you try to become a human being?  Of course not!  You can’t become what you already are.

Similarly, it is foolish for people to try to become the people of God…because they already are!  (This was the point of yesterday’s post.)

Nevertheless, people everywhere are trying to be the people of God.  Churches are forming and splitting all the time with the purpose of trying to be the true people of God.  Such a waste!

Have you noticed that whenever people try to be the people of God, they usually end up acting poorly?  Jesus chastised the Pharisees for this very reason, saying that they would go to the ends of the earth in order to make a convert – and, in so doing, simply produced another hypocrite (Matthew 23:15).

Why is this so?  Because when you try to become the people of God you are, in effect, depriving some other human beings of that identity.  In other words, you would be downgrading other human beings as not being the people of God.

Someone will protest my point by saying that the New Testament commends those who sought to be the people of God.  The answer to that objection is that New Testament times were unique in that regard.  Remember that Old Testament times were unique as well – you could only be the people of God if you were a physical descendant of a man named Abraham.  In New Testament times, Gentiles were brought in to the flock of Israel in order to bear witness to what God had done through Jesus Christ.  As the apostles bore witness to Jesus, so the New Testament church bore witness to the apostles.  Since the day of the Lord has come, and history has established adequate witness, we have no more need of a special people of God.  Instead, all people are the people of God.

Therefore, be done with asking which people are the people of God.  If they’re people, they’re the people of God.

And as for yourself, rest in the truth of who you are – one of God’s people.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Lord Has Chosen a People for His Name…and It Is the Human Race

Yesterday’s post was about how we are living in “the day of the Lord.”  This is the day when the whole human race has been reclaimed from Satan and belongs entirely to God.  Jesus Christ purchased this redemption with His own precious blood.  In this day, as Jeremiah prophesied (Jeremiah 31:31-34), humanity lives in covenant with God whereby everyone knows Him through conscience (Romans 2:14-16).  There is no need for a separate “people of God” in this day because all are “the people of God” – even those who have never been called His people (Hosea 1:10).

When God chose the Jews in Old Testament times to be “His people” it was not that He might exclude the rest of humanity from His blessings, but rather that everyone might ultimately receive His blessings.  And, again, when He chose the church in New Testament times, it was not that unbelievers might be excluded from His eternal dwelling, but rather that all might ultimately be incorporated.  Through Jesus Christ, God has established a new order in the heavens whereby all people now belong to Him.  We are no longer to make divisions among ourselves because we all have the same Lord and Father.

Think of Joseph.  Did God choose Joseph that He might exclude the rest of Jacob’s children?  On the contrary, He chose Joseph that He might feed all of Jacob’s children in a time of famine.  This is the principle.

The kingdom of God has come (yet another way of saying that we live in the day of the Lord) and God is done choosing people.  He has made His final choice…and it is the human race.  Do not consider any human being as less than your brother or sister in the Lord.

Since Everyone Is Going to Heaven, there is no further excuse to divide ourselves on earth.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

This Is Not the Day of the Church; It is the Day of the Lord

The New Testament – from Acts to Revelation – chronicles the day of the church.  It was the last days of Israel, the days in which Israel’s remnant (another name for the church) was saved.  The Old Testament prophets had prophesied of that time.   It would come just before the great and glorious day of the Lord (see Acts 2::16-21, and Joel 2:28-32 which is it quoting).

Let me say that again, more compactly this time: The New Testament chronicles the last days of Israel which heralded the coming day of the Lord.

All of us who have lived subsequent to New Testament times are living in that day – the day of the Lord.  When, throughout history since that time, you see the church exalting Jesus Christ , then you see the church flourishing.  Whenever the church has not exalted Jesus Christ, it has languished.  The reason for this is clear: this is the day of the Lord and whoever exalts Him is blessed by God.  The church has nothing to do with it.  God’s blessing is not on the church; it is on whoever is exalting the Lord.  The only church He blessed was the one you read about in the New Testament.

The phrase “day of the Lord” per se is written about 19 different times by the Old Testament prophets and 5 times by the New Testament apostles.  There are, by the way, many more occurrence of synonymous phrases (such as “that day,” “the day of God,” or “the day of judgment”).  One of these synonymous phrases is “day of eternity.”  That is, the day of the Lord is the day of eternity.  Thus, we live in that day which will stand forever – the day of Christ (another synonym, this one from Philippians).

Those who exalt church in this day are under a curse because it is a day for the Lord alone to be exalted (Isaiah 2:11, 17).  The church (that is, the church of the New Testament) was the remnant of Israel which bore glorious witness to its greatest Son.  We (that is, the entire human race) are now heirs of all the promises of God – the promises to which the true church bore witness as a first fruits to the age that would follow them.  Let us therefore look to the Lord in order to receive favor from His hand while we are on this earth, for we surely need it.  This is obviously a day of wrath for all who do evil.

May the Lord Jesus Christ – and He alone – be exalted in this day that shall last forever.

For elaboration, see these posts:

Everyone Is Going to Heaven

Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again

Judgment Is Upon Us

All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled

Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church

Call on His Name

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Why Is Jesus Called Son, God, and Father?

In Isaiah 9:6, the Messiah of Israel is prophesied to be “Son,” “God,” and “Father.”  Not just the “Son,” but the “Father” also.  Amazing!

This verse is usually spoken or sung with reference to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the home of His ancestor David.  Yet its implications obviously extend well beyond that moment – both backward and forward!

Jesus was the Son of God by virtue of His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4).  He was God by virtue of His installation at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:8-9; Psalm 2:6).  He is Father by virtue of His inheritance of the promise to Abraham to be a “father of many nations,” a promise fulfilled when He came in glory (Matthew 16:27; Isaiah 22:24) on the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62; Daniel 7:13).

Jesus Christ is our God and our Father.  When you cry out to your Father in heaven…He is the one who answers.  There is no other.

God is not a Trinity; God is not triune.  This is a man-made misunderstanding.  There is one God who created and redeemed us, and we know Him best as Jesus.  (If it were not so, Isaiah would not have spoken as He did about Him.)

He who was God from all eternity past became one of us that He might be raised to His former glory…taking us* with Him!

(*In case you haven’t heard, Everyone Is Going to Heaven.)

To learn more about Christ versus the Trinity, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

GICNAT

The Apostles Presented Jesus as Lord

During the days of His flesh (that is, essentially the time period recorded in the four Gospels), Jesus did not present Himself as Messiah (Christ) or Lord.  On the contrary, He conducted Himself as a descendant of Abraham, heir to the covenant of promises that God had granted.  Jesus’ teaching and miracle-working power were very much in the vein of Israel’s long line of prophets which had preceded Him – men such as, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah.  Granted, His display of miracles in quantity and quality exceeded them all.  Nonetheless, He was presenting Himself to His fellow citizens in the same way that the prophets always had – as a man of God.

When He was occasionally acknowledged as the Messiah, He urged discretion and did not want this fact publicized prematurely.  The last time He was pressed to acknowledge that He was Israel’s king was at His trial.  And for this admission He was condemned to death for blasphemy.

Once He was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, however, all reason for hesitation and reticence was gone.  Jesus was seated at the right hand of God and the apostles were commissioned to declare this fact with boldness.  Beginning in Jerusalem, the apostles went from city to city declaring to Jews, and soon after to Gentiles as well, that Jesus was Lord, and should be honored as such.  Thus, though God had permitted the nations to go their own ways in times past (Acts 14:16), He was now overlooking those times of ignorance and declaring that all people everywhere should repent in preparation for the day of judgment that was coming (Acts 17:30-31).

To be declared “Lord” in this way was technically not a declaration that Jesus was God.  However, for all practical purposes, it meant the same thing.  That is, at the right hand of God, Jesus was just as invisible to mankind as was God.  To have all authority in heaven and on earth was the authority God had.  To command the obedience of all mankind (which is just what the apostles were insisting on when they declared Jesus as Lord) was a privilege than only God enjoyed.  Thus to be declared Lord in this way was to sit in the place of God as far as the inhabitants of the world were concerned.

You might ask why God didn’t just tell all the nations to repent a long time before.  Why did Jesus have to be crucified and raised to the right hand of God for humanity to turn its eyes toward heaven and repent?  Because humanity needed a strong reason to believe they would find mercy if they looked in that direction (Psalm 130:4).  Creation made clear to us that there was a throne of power in heaven; we needed a redemption of similar scope to convince us it was also a throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Jesus provided that assurance because He was the Lamb of God (John 1;29,36).

While the apostles boldly and repeatedly proclaimed Jesus as Lord, they did not explicitly and emphatically proclaim Him as God.  Why not?  Because that fact was to be proclaimed from the heavens through the Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; and therein launched the judgment of the day of the Lord, or, as Paul calls it in Philippians, the day of Christ).  For in looking heavenward from that point on, we human beings realize that the one we pierced was actually God Himself (Revelation 1:7; Zechariah 12:10).  That was the Revelation of Jesus Christ for which the apostles told everyone to look (1 Peter 1:13), and oh what grace it brings!

See also

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Apostles Learned How to Read the Scriptures from Jesus

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that the apostles teach us how to read the Scriptures.  The point I want to emphasize today is that it was the Lord Himself who first taught the apostles how to read the Scriptures.

Although the apostles were all Jews and therefore raised by their families and friends to know the Scriptures, they did not understand them nearly as well as Jesus did.  (Of course, that’s  not a fair comparison; maybe I should have said “they did not understand them nearly as well as He eventually would lead them to understand them.”)  In fact, after Jesus’ crucifixion, the apostles were completely demoralized.  They had no expectation of the Messiah being resurrected on the third day because they had no expectation of the Messiah being crucified.  In this regard they were no different from any other 1st Century Jew (except one, of course – Jesus of Nazareth).

Once Jesus was raised from the dead, He began to explain to the apostles how everything that had happened to Him had been prophesied in the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 44-48).  This sort of instruction continued for forty days (Acts 1:1-3)…until Jesus ascended into heaven.  These apostles had been common folks before Jesus chose them  – fishermen, tax collectors, and the like.  They were not trained rabbis and were not considered theologically literate.  Once their Teacher showed them the true meaning of the Scriptures, they had every reason to embrace it wholeheartedly.  And so they did.

How wonderful it is that the Lord who spoke the Scriptures in the first place, came to earth to teach us how to understand them!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Apostles Teach Us How to Read the Scriptures

When the apostles wrote the New Testament, they frequently quoted the Old Testament.  In doing so, they taught us how to read the Bible.

The prophets who wrote the Old Testament reported on patterns that occurred in God’s dealings with humanity.  As it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun and there is a time for everything.  That is to say, human history does not unfold in some random sequence of events.  Rather, there are recurring patterns.  This is not to say that we are doomed to cycles we cannot control.  On the contrary, the Scriptures argue against a fatalistic view of life and instead exhort us to repent so that we might enjoy the blessings of God.  Alas, humanity often fails to listen.

For example, Isaiah the prophet was commissioned by God to warn that Jerusalem and surrounding Judah were going to be destroyed by an invading army.  Isaiah gave the warning – repeatedly over a lifetime of faithful service.  Yet the Israelites did not heed the message and thus Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 A.D.  Fast forward to New Testament times and you see Jesus reminding His listeners of the pattern they saw in Isaiah (Matthew 13:14-15; see also John 12:37-43) because they were going to see the same sequence of events.  As Isaiah had done before Him, Jesus warned the Israelites of His day to repent.  The political leadership of the nation rejected His message and Jerusalem was subsequently destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Alas, there was nothing new under the sun – but those who listened to Isaiah and Jesus were blessed and protected by God like Noah riding out the storm in an ark (2 Peter 2:5 – see the pattern again?).

Thus the apostles, in their writings, demonstrate for us how to read and understand the Old Testament.  This largely has to do with recognizing patterns (that is, types, shadows, foreshadowings, examples, and the like) in the Scriptures that are most fully demonstrated through Jesus Christ Himself.

Therefore, if you want to read the Bible…and understand it…read it the way the apostles did.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Why I Believe the Bible Is the Word of God

I believe the Bible is the word of God because Jesus did.  In fact, His attitude toward the Scriptures was one of absolute trust (John 10:35), in lesser as well as in greater matters (Matthew 5:17-19).  If that was His attitude, it’s going to be mine, too.

Of course, you may say, this only begs the question, “Why do you believe Jesus?”  Fair question.  I believe Him because His story is too good not to be true.  It’s a story that’s amazing and yet plausible at the same time.  In short, He’s eminently believable.  His story is the only adequate answer I have ever heard to humanity’s biggest problem: death.

“Ah, but,” you say, “you wouldn’t know about Jesus if it weren’t for the New Testament and Jesus’ attitude you described above would have only applied to the Old Testament since the New Testament wasn’t in existence while He lived.  Therefore, you’ve only explained why you believe the Old Testament is the word of God.  Why then do you believe that the New Testament is the word of God?”

First, I believe the New Testament is also the word of God because it matches the pattern of the Old Testament in that God spoke by His Holy Spirit through holy men; in the Old Testament it was through prophets, in the New Testament it was through apostles.  Second, in its description of Jesus it tells the only possible story that could have fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah – and yet it could not possibly have been fabricated.  It could not have been contrived because it involved too many people to engage in a conspiracy (including the governments of Israel and Rome), and because no Jew would have made up a story that had the Messiah being crucified.  Third, since the apostles were bearing witness with their lives to what they had seen and heard, they had a simple, if arduous, task.  Therefore, there wasn’t much opportunity for error.  The truth to which they testified was too wonderful to bear embellishment.   Fourth and last, everything about Jesus to which the New Testament testifies is corroborated in the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27, 44-48).  The entire Bible – Old Testament and New Testament, Genesis to Revelation – together tells a story of Jesus that is coherent, consistent, and cohesive.

In the end, it all comes back to Jesus.  It always does.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.  And the word of God is…His word.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.