SL010 – More on the Prophets

Scriptural Literacy:

Understanding the Bible –

An Ancient Text of Timeless Truths for a Modern Age

Our purpose in this blog and podcast is to increase our biblical literacy – that is, to become more comfortable reading the Bible.  The purpose of reading the Bible is to understand, and better understand, Jesus Christ – God’s revelation of Himself to the world.

Understanding the structure of the Bible (OT = Old Testament, NT = New Testament):

The order of our study in these podcasts: Gospels, Psalms, Acts, Prophets,
Epistles, Pentateuch, History, Wisdom

OT: Pentateuch (Law of Moses), History, Wisdom, Prophets
NT: Gospels, Acts, Epistles

OT: History, Wisdom, Prophets
NT: History, Letters

“The Prophets” can refer to all of the OT or part of it.

I.  Jesus Grew Up on the Prophets (begins at 12:03)

Matthew 1:1
Luke 2:41-47
Luke 4:16-30 (Isaiah 61:1-2)

II.  Jesus Staked His Life on the Prophets (begins at 32:32)

Luke 24:25-27
1 Peter 1:10-12
Acts 8:26-35
Mark 7:1-9 (Isaiah 29:13)

III.  More Examples of the Prophets in the Gospels (begins at 47:33)

Matthew 4:12-17 (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Matthew 8:14-17 (Isaiah 53:4)
Matthew 12:15-21 (Isaiah 42:1-3)
John 12:38-41 (Isaiah 53:1; 6:1ff)
Isaiah 53:1-12; 54:1ff

Total time elapsed is 1:14:38

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are to the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Branch Became the Vine – and We Are Its Branches

Many people know that Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5).  However, some context is in order.

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah all prophesied of the Messiah as “the Branch” (11:1; 33:15; and 3:8, respectively).

Thus that branch, or “sprout” or “shoot” as is sometimes translated in Isaiah 53:2, became a luxurious vine…from which would sprout branches.  That vine, of course, is Jesus our King – Messiah of Israel.

Who are those branches?  Those grafted into Him by love and faith (Romans 11:17-21).  Like Aaron’s rod that budded, we had no life source – and yet were grafted into Him who is now our invisible life source.

Blessed be the name of the Vine!  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  Apart from Him we want to do nothing.  Let all things be done for His sake (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  And let all things be done through Him as well (Philippians 4:13).

Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches.  That’s much more than a flowery metaphor.

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 Son of God Is the Living God

In Revelation 1:17-18 Jesus describes Himself as “the living One,” and indeed He is!

Jesus is the living God.  For this reason Paul wrote, “I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20) and “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).  There was a great transfer going on at that time.  The Messiah of Israel – the Son of God – was inheriting the faith that had historically been placed in the God and Father of Israel.  And this was all according to promise (Acts 13:23).

When Psalm 81:13 says, “Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways,” that’s the Son of God talking…because He is the living God.  Let us listen to Him and do His will!

People can argue about the Trinity, but the Son of God came to be obeyed.

For more on the Son of God 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.

The Inheritance Is His, Not Ours

Jesus fleshed out a parable in Mark 12:1-12 which had been been started by Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-2).  In His telling, Jesus makes clear that the vine-growers wanted the vineyard for themselves – even though they’d merely been hired by the vine-grower to tend it for him.  Therefore, they rejected everyone that the owner sent to them with a message.

Just as the Pharisees were the guilty party in that telling, it’s equally clear that church leaders today are the guilty party.  They “kill off” the presence of Jesus in every place that they might have an inheritance for themselves.

Churches are an attempt to hive off part of the Lord’s vineyard, and partake of its fruit illegitimately.  I ought to know, because I once pastored a church.

The inheritance is His, not ours.  We are simply to point people to Him, not to ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:5).

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 Should I Read the Old Testament Without Jesus’ Guidance?

The Old Testament contains many things hard to understand by a 21st-century mind.  Since Jesus professed to understand it, why don’t we accept His explanation of it?  He’s much easier for us to understand.

The Old Testament is explained throughout the New Testament.  The New Testament is, of course, a reflection of Jesus’ mind since it was written by His disciples.

For example, the New Testament (Hebrews 11:17-19) explains that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac because Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead.  Since God had promised Abraham “In Isaac your descendants shall be called,” Abraham was confident that Isaac was going to have children even if God had to raise him from the dead to do it!  Abraham’s faith in the promise of God gave him the assurance that there was no way the sacrifice of Isaac was going to be the end of Isaac.  That casts a whole new light on that otherwise difficult-to-understand story about God asking a man to sacrifice his son.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people struggle over this story from Genesis 22 without ever mentioning the Hebrews 11:17-19 explanation!   As I’ve said, I don’t understand why anyone would want to read the Old Testament without the benefit of Jesus’ perspective.

The New Testament doesn’t attempt to explain every chapter and verse of the Old Testament, but it certainly gives us principles to follow which we can apply throughout.

Just remember that our term – that is, “Old Testament” – is not one ever used or thought by Jesus and His apostles.  In that sense “Old Testament” a misnomer.  They did not see those texts as merely “old” (some people today would even say “irrelevant”) – they saw them as living.  Jesus made the Scriptures come alive – and entirely filled with grace.

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.

Jesus Used the Written Word to Defend the Spoken Word

People often disregard the Bible, thinking that a voice from heaven (or something similarly dramatic) would be a more sure way to hear from God.  Jesus demonstrates that this is not so.

When He was baptized, Jesus heard a voice say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).  This led, not to a period of uninterrupted bliss during which Jesus could meditate happily on these words, but rather to a period of temptation in which Satan always began with “If you are the Son of God, then…”

Jesus resisted Satan’s doubt-inducing temptations not by quoting the voice He had heard from heaven, but rather by quoting the Scripture.  Jesus was using the written record of God’s word to defend the personal voice He had heard from heaven.  We should take the Bible as seriously as Jesus did.

(Note that Eve did not have the benefit of a written record of God’s command for Adam and her.  Let us never underestimate the value of having a written record of God’s communications to mankind, nor disregard the vast amount of blood that has been spilled across the centuries to preserve it for us.)

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.

Even Jesus Didn’t Come Until the Scriptures Were Written and Settled

As we saw in yesterday’s post – We Have Something Eve Didn’t Have – the written word of God is a welcome weapon in our fight against evil.  It gives us a resource for resisting temptation that Eve did not have.

Even the Messiah of Israel – Jesus our Lord – did not come until the Scriptures had been written and settled.  In fact, the 39 books we call the Old Testament were written over an approximately thousand-year span, with several centuries elapsing between completion of the last book and the birth of Christ.  For this reason, while we see debate in the New Testament about many things (such as resurrection, the Messiah’s identity, and Sabbath activity), we see no debate whatsoever about the Scriptures.  By this time, “the Law and the Prophets and the Writings” were settled and accepted by the Jews – whether they believed in Jesus or didn’t.

Jesus showed an acute consciousness of the Scriptures, tailoring His mission according to its contours (Matthew 26:54; Luke 22:37; Mark 14:49; John 5:46).  He could not have done this had He come before the Scriptures were written and known as such.  Since He came to demonstrate the faithfulness of God to His promises (Romans 15:8), it would have made no sense for Him to come before those promises had been fully documented and preserved for posterity.

Even Jesus had something Eve didn’t have – a written record of God’s commands.  If He needed them to guide His way, how much more do we!

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 Trinity Divorces Jesus from Too Many Scriptures

If the trinity doctrine divorced Jesus from even one scripture, it would be worthy of condemnation.  How much more when it divorces Jesus from many scriptures!

For example, all references to “the Lord” in the Psalms have been intended to refer to Jesus ever since He was made Lord when He was seated at the right hand of God according to Psalm 110 and as verified in Acts 2:34-36.  Yet trinitarians so often teach that references to “the Lord” in the Psalms are references to “the triune God,” or sometimes “the Father” as distinguished from Jesus.  This robs these scriptures of the meaning God has given them through Christ.  Such teaching recalls Jesus’ words about the religious leaders who didn’t enter the kingdom of God themselves, nor did they allow others who were entering to go in (Matthew 23:13).  Such leaders shut off the kingdom of God from people by restricting the meaning that Jesus gives Scripture by virtue of His resurrection and His lordship.

Wherever in Scripture a trinitarian sees the trinity, you can be sure it’s a place where our Lord Christ is being obscured.

When Jesus is separated from the scriptures, His life becomes less relevant to us – something so grandiose and ethereal that we wouldn’t think about imitating it.  Yet imitation was uppermost in God’s mind when He came to live as one of us.  If He didn’t intend to inspire imitation, what did He intend?

For more on this subject, 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.

There Is No Other Lord But This One

Jesus is the only Lord.  There is no other Lord but He.

There was a time when we were uncertain about Jesus’ identity.  The gospels portray Him as a human being, and without any doubt He clearly was.  But He was more.  And  revealing His identity as God was what the Second Coming was all about – revealing that Jesus had been God in the flesh.

Since this is the case, let’s be done with vain imaginings like the trinity which postulates a three-headed god.  Rather let us bow our knees to the one name that is above all names: Jesus Christ our Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

Obey Him.  Imitate Him.  We can only do this by living a life of repentance towards Him.  Do not fear, however: He will forgive us (Psalm 130:4; 1 John 1:9).

For more on this subject, 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.

This Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 begins speaking of the Lord who is “my shepherd.”  Who is this Lord?  It is Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead, never to die again – son of David, Son of God.

God intended that this psalm be personalized between you and Him.  If you can’t see the resurrected Jesus as the only rightful recipient of your praise in this psalm, you are not reading it rightly.  God became Jesus of Nazareth that your perception of His character might be accurate.

Christ is Lord!  Let us follow our Shepherd, forsaking our sin and living for His glory.

For more on this subject, 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.

Who Is the Lord?

When you read the Bible and you come across a verse that reads “the Lord,” to whom does it refer?  It refers to He who was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9; Micah 2:13), He who was the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5).  This was anticipated by Jesus in Matthew 22:41-46, and declared as accomplished by Peter in Acts 2:34-36, though it had been a mystery hidden in God until that time (Romans 16:25-27).

We live in the day of Christ Jesus which was prophesied by Paul (Philippians 1:6).  Do not be like Pharaoh who claimed insufficient knowledge of the Lord to obey Him (Exodus 5:2).  Jesus is Lord!

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

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 Shiloh – The Church Afterward Was Ichabod

Jeremiah warned the people of God about their laxity regarding sin by invoking the lesson of Shiloh (Jeremiah 7).

In earlier times, the ark of God rested in Shiloh but the people of Israel ignored the laws handed down to them by Moses.  They kept up a certain amount of ritual, but tolerated corruption in those who represented them before the Lord (1 Samuel 2:27-34).  God withdrew Israel’s protection and the ark of the covenant was taken from Shiloh by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:16-22).

This foreshadowed the experience of the New Testament church.  As the early church grew, it became lax in its zeal for righteousness.  Its leaders gave in to the corruption that so often comes with power.  By no means was everyone in the church corrupt.  When the Lord came, He plucked out those whose hearts were true to Him and gave them His light in their hearts to guide them.  The rest were left in their darkness to continue in the institutionalization of the church.  For this reason it is Ichabod (that is, “the glory has departed” – 1 Samuel 4:21-22).

Thus you may think of the church as Ichabod ever since.  Yes, the light of Jesus flickers here and their through church history whenever and wherever His word is preached.  However, it never takes long for the forces of corruption to infect such movements and siphon off their energy as they attempt to institutionalize that which cannot ever be put under the control of men: the Spirit of God.

What are we to do?  Seek 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 Apostles Were Mighty Men of David

If David was a type of Christ (and he surely was), then his “mighty men” were types of the apostles.

The mighty men of David, who made Him strong in His kingdom, were enumerated in 2 Samuel 23 and 1 Chronicles 11.  These stalwart men gave David strong support in his kingdom.

Certainly, the apostles gave strong support to Christ as He prepared for His kingdom.  Through the sacrifice of their lives we have the New Testament, in which (combined with the Old Testament) are the keys to that kingdom.

Christ is reigning as king now.  Will you be a mighty man to give Him strong support in that kingdom?  Or are you one of those who says there is no king in Israel and everyone should do what is right in His own eyes?  (Judges 21:25)

The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now

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 Were There Seven Deacons in the Jerusalem Church?

The short chapter of Acts 6 describes how Jesus’ apostles appointed seven deacons to work with the needy in Jerusalem in the days not long after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  The question is, why did the apostles appointed seven deacons instead of some other number of deacons?

A. Seven is the number of completeness.

B. Seven represents God because He created the world in six days and rest on the seventh.

C. No one knows; it is a mystery of God why the Holy Spirit instructed the apostles to do this.

D. Widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.

Answer: D. (What other number would you choose if the daily serving of food was the problem?)

In the New Testament Jesus Christ Progresses from Flesh to Spirit

In the New Testament’s four gospels we see Jesus according to the flesh.  In the books of Acts, He becomes Jesus in the spirit (seated at the right hand of God where He can no longer be viewed by physical eyes).  For this reason, Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16 says that “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (NASB).

Throughout the New Testament’s epistles, we see Jesus more and more in the spirit.

By the time of the book of Revelation we see Jesus shining in the fullness of spiritual description, including having “a head and hair white like white wool or snow,” “eyes like a flame of fire,” “feet like burnished bronze when it has been caused to glow in a furnace,” and more.  In other words, Jesus progresses from flesh to brighter and brighter rays of glory as the New Testament progresses.

If the New Testament thus portrays the dawning of Jesus Christ, what then is the full day?  Jesus Christ is God!  Let us repent of our ways and worship Him now and always!

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.

How Long Will Jesus Have the Name Above Every Name?

How long will Jesus be the name that is above every name?  (That is to say, how long will He be Lord?)  The answer is…forever.  And ever.

Ephesians 1:21 says He was given the name above all names not only for the biblical age, but for the eternal age to follow it.

Daniel 7:14 says the dominion He would given would be everlasting.

Isaiah 9:6-7 says there would no end to the increase of His government.

There will never be a name higher than the Lord Jesus Christ.  Never.

He will always be the Lord.  And there is no other.

How then could the Trinity be true?

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.

How Jesus Came to Inherit the Title “Lord”

In Acts 2:34-36, the apostle Peter declares that Jesus’ ascension into heaven (after His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection) was the fulfillment of the Psalm 110 prophecy about the Christ (i.e. the Messiah).  By seating Jesus at His right hand, God was declaring Jesus to be “Lord” (Psalm 110:1).  This is, of course, consistent with what Jesus reported to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 – that He had been given “all authority in heaven and on earth.”

From this point on, Jesus – as Lord – was able to execute all powers and fulfill all promises of the Scripture that had been made in the name of the Lord.  For this reason, Peter could characterize the promise from Joel 2:32 (quoted by Peter in Acts 2:21) – “[W]hoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” – as being fulfilled for those who called on the name of Jesus (see Acts 2:37-39).  Since Jesus was now “the Lord,” calling upon Jesus was calling upon the Lord.  And calling upon the name of Jesus was calling upon the name of the Lord.

Jesus was now prepared to fulfill all the promises that God had made as “Lord” to whoever called upon Him.  Physical ancestry through Abraham was no longer an issue.  For this reason the apostle Paul could say that all the promises of God were “yes and amen in [the Lord Jesus]” 2 Corinthians 1:20.  To have Christ as Lord was indeed “an administration of” the promises of God “suitable for all time” (Ephesians 1:10).

Reconsider the Old Testament if you haven’t already.  Jesus, having inherited the title of “Lord” from God the Father (see also When Jesus Became Lord), is prepared to display the faithfulness of God to all who will trust Him.  Review all the promises of God and observe how our Lord Jesus Christ administers the universe (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

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.

What Jesus Taught Peter About the Bible

When Jesus was crucified and buried, His disciples became distressed, downcast, and scattered.  Even those closest to Him – His apostles – had lost all hope.

Jesus’ resurrection changed all that.  Not only was hope profoundly renewed, but Jesus explained to His followers – including Peter – how everything that had happened, and that was happening, had been prophesied long ahead of time in the Scriptures.  Read Luke 24 to see how Jesus opened the their eyes (especially verses 25-27, 31-32, and 44-48).

Peter passed on this understanding in 1 Peter 1:10-12.  He also bore witness to it in Acts 3:22-24 and Acts 10:43.

Specifically, in Acts 2:25-28 where he is quoting Psalm 16:8-11, we see Peter passing on the understanding of how David had written Psalm 16 with an eye toward the coming Messiah.  Note especially Acts 2:30 which recalled 2 Samuel 7:12-13.   Then consider Acts 2:31 in light of 1 Peter 1:10-12 and 2 Samuel 7:19.  (Note also Peter’s specific reference to Samuel in Acts 3:24.)  David was one of those prophets to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that what was being inspired to be written about the Messiah, was being inspired for distant and future generations (1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4).

Of course, even more prominent in 1st-century Jewish thought about the Messiah than Psalm 16 was Psalm 110.  Peter declared this prophecy to have been fulfilled in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 2:24-32).  Then in Acts 2:33 Peter uses the phrase “right hand of God” which comes from Psalm 110 – widely considered in that day to be a messianic prophecy.  You may recall that Jesus had taught on Psalm 110 before His resurrection without giving the answer to the riddle (or mystery, if you prefer) He had raised by invoking it the way He did ( see Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44 for the story).  Peter learned after the resurrection – and we now know – that resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God was the answer to the riddle that the Pharisees could not give.  David could call Jesus both “son” and “Lord” because according to the flesh Jesus was David’s son, but according to the spirit Jesus would be David’s Lord (Romans 14:9; Acts 2:34-36; and When Jesus Became Lord).  Jesus so taught Peter and the others that it solved the riddle and removed all uncertainty for them.

Jesus also taught Peter and the other disciples that the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that they testify about the Christ (John 5:39, 46 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17, in addition to the Luke 24 passages mentioned above).  Peter subsequently made clear to everyone in 2 Peter 1:17-21 that his eyewitness experience of Jesus was best understood through the Scriptures – and the same Holy Spirit who had inspired them.

If we’re not reading the Scriptures to learn about Christ…we’re missing the whole point.

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.

Regarding Jesus as the Way (to Live)

In the posts from yesterday (Examples of Jesus as the Way) and the day before (If You Can See Christ in the Verse, Then You Can See Yourself in the Verse), I wrote of how we can follow Jesus…in scriptural terms.

Of course, Jesus is the Way.  He said so Himself in John 14:6 (“I am the way…”).  Consider also the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ reference to the narrow “way” to life Matthew 7:13-14.

“The Way” was also how the apostles and their disciples referred to their following of Jesus.  You can see this in the following verses:

Acts 9:2

Acts 19:9

Acts 19:23

(Acts 22:4 – “this Way” instead of “the Way”)

Acts 24:14

Acts 24:22

Consider also 2 Peter 2:20-21 where Jesus is referred to as “the way of righteousness.”

By contrast, the word “Christian” shows up in the Bible only three times (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), and the word “Christianity” doesn’t show up at all.

Jesus was, and is, not only the way to God – He is the way to live.  I hope you will think about this post and the other two I referenced.  All three are a call to follow Jesus the way He is going.  This has nothing to do with churchgoing and has everything to do with living a life of love.  To reinforce the point, consider 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

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.

He Is the Image of the Invisible God

How is it that when Jesus was made Lord upon His ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 2:34-36), the Old Testament descriptions of “the Lord” (such as I have been posting the last few days) applied so well to Him?

The answer is that Jesus of Nazareth was the image of the invisible God, as Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15.  Or we could say it a bit more poetically, as the writer to the Hebrews did: Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory” (Heb 1:1-4).

For this reason, descriptions of God’s characteristics as we find throughout the psalms (e.g. “great,” “merciful,” “kind”) apply equally well to Jesus.  And with the resurrection, even characterizations like “enthroned in the heavens” and “high above the nations” apply as well as to Jesus as they do to Israel’s God as originally written.  Why do you suppose that is?

It is because when it came time for the greatest mission in the history of creation, God took on the task Himself (Isaiah 59:16; 63:5).  Jesus was God in the flesh.

For more on this subject, 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.

Psalm 27:1

In John 8:12 Jesus said He was the light of the world.  If this was true when He was on earth, how much more when He was enthroned in the heavens!

Given His abundantly merciful character, how blessed are we human beings that Jesus was raised from the dead to glory in heaven and declared to be Lord of all (Acts 2:34-36; 10:36).

We have no one to fear and no one to dread.

If our bodies are destroyed, we have better ones waiting for us in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1).  Indeed, there is nothing at all that can separate us from the love of God through Him (Romans 8:35-39).

No wonder the Lord Jesus is our light.  His face is like the sun shining in its strength (Revelation 1:16) for He is the sun that rose from the dead (Malachi 4:2).  As Isaiah exhorted, let us walk in the light of this Lord (Isaiah 2:5).  That is, let His penetrating eyes disinfect us of every unworthy thought and word (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).

Do not think of the Lord as uncertain and nebulous.  Jesus has put a sure and certain face on God (2 Corinthians 4:6).

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.

Psalm 117

Who is the Lord who should be praised by all nations?  Jesus.

Who is the Lord who should be lauded by all peoples?  Jesus.

Who is it whose mercy is great toward us?  Jesus.

Who is it who truth is everlasting?  Jesus.

Who is the Lord we should praise?  Jesus!

For explanation, see Reading Psalm 1 in Light of Jesus and His Kingdom – Part 1 of 2.

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.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

In 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, the apostle Paul writes that, having been made “Lord,” Jesus Christ has become to us everything necessary to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  That is, through knowing Jesus, we know the Lord.  This is because, through His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, Jesus became the Lord (Acts 2:34-36).

Therefore, knowing Jesus (that is, knowing the Lord) is more valuable than earthly wisdom, earthly power, or earthly riches.

Jesus is “the Lord” of Jeremiah 9:23-24 to all of us on earth 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.

Psalm 113:4

How did the Lord get to be “high above all the nations, His glory above the heavens?”  He was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God the Father, that’s how!

Yes, these words were true of the God of Israel long before Jesus was ever born in Bethlehem.  Yet these same words were also a prophecy of what would happen when Jesus, upon being crucified, was raised from the dead three days later to be enthroned in heaven forever.

As Peter said in Acts 2:34-36, this was in fulfillment of what God had prophesied through King David in Psalm 110.  Through His resurrection, Jesus was made Lord so that every knee might bow (Philippians 2:9-11) and that all things might be summed up in an administration through Christ (Ephesians 1:10).

Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus 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.

The Ancient Mind Versus the Modern Mind

When we read the Bible, we are aware that the people who originally wrote it and read it didn’t have computers, telephones, televisions, automobiles, and all sorts of other devices that are commonplace in our lives today.  That is, we are usually conscious of how many aspects of life we don’t share with those folks.  On the other hand, we can also conscious of the many aspects of life that are unchanged between then and now: birth, life, death, love, afterlife, and so on.  However, we often forget that ancient prophets and their readers didn’t always have the same ideas about these common issues that we modern readers do.

One very important example of this difference in outlook is heaven.  To the ancient mind, heaven was not a place for human beings (whether in this life or the next).  Heaven was where the gods dwelt.  See, for example, Acts 14:11 where Paul’s hearers (wrongly) thought he and his companions were gods descended from the heavens because of the miracle God had performed through them.  See also Acts 17:18 which took place in a different city where Paul’s hearers (rightly) understood that Paul’s claim of Jesus’ being raised to heaven was a claim for His divinity.  Examples abound in the Bible – whether of Jews or Gentiles, believers or pagans – which show this fundamental difference in practical cosmology between ancient people and modern people.

Modern people have a wide variety of ideas about who and what is in heaven.  Ancient people had a clearer and more consistent view, varying only in which and what kind of gods occupied heaven.  And they certainly didn’t envision human beings up there.

Only by acknowledging the ancient world view that heaven was for gods and earth was for men can you fully appreciate what a dramatic assertion it was for the apostles to say that Jesus had been raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God.  It was literally life-changing for anyone who heard it and believed.  This is explained in the seventh chapter of the book The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

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.

Psalm 113:6

Yesterday’s post about Genesis 18:20-21 spoke of how God humbled Himself to see just what sort of things go on in the earth.  Psalm 113:6 (NASB) ascribes that same characteristic of humility to our Lord.  Specifically, it says that He “humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth.”

In fact, the entirety of Psalm 113 speaks of the glory of Jesus and His mission.  Consider, for example, how He is “high above the nations” because of being raised their after death and seated at God’s right hand as described in Psalm 110:1 (just a page or two back in your Bible).  No wonder Jesus told His disciples, “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).

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.

Genesis 18:20-21

Genesis 18:20-21 foreshadows the mission of Jesus who heard the outcry from the earth and chose to “go down and see” if the world’s sins were as great as their outcry.  Whether it was or it wasn’t, God said, “I will know.”

Indeed, Jesus came to know firsthand the sins of humanity – and that they were indeed very great.  Our sins were so great that we rejected and murdered the One who created us and who has always loved us.  But cheer up!  Jesus was raised from the dead and He reigns forevermore to save us from our sins by turning us from our wicked ways (Acts 3:26).

Turn to Him now and turn away from your selfish living.  Let us live properly – that is, as servants of the King, doing His will (Psalm 103:21).

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.

Psalm 115:1

A recent post described how “Jesus” became the name of the Lord.  Essentially, this was the result of God raising Jesus from the dead, seating Him at His right hand, and thus fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 110:1 in which David wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand’.”  In this way Jesus became Lord and thus His name became the name of the Lord.

You can see how the apostles were praying with the attitude of Psalm 115:1 in Acts 4:24-30 (NASB) when they asked that “signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”  The apostles were not seeking glory for their own names, but for the name of the Lord: Jesus.

It is also fascinating to continue reading through Psalm 115 and see its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, especially in the references to eyes, ears, nose, hands, and feet – all of which Jesus brought to the throne in a whole new dimension!

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.

Psalm 8:9

Yesterday’s post about Genesis 4:26 sets the stage for today’s.

In Acts 2, those who believed Peter’s message could now hear the words of Psalm 8:9 invested with new meaning.  It still conveyed the same truth but with a much sharper edge.  God had seated Jesus at His right hand and made Him Lord (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-36).  It is this name of the Lord – Jesus – that was now to be majestic in all the earth.  And indeed the subsequent chapters in Acts reveal the signs and wonders that God performed in that majestic name.

Considering all that the apostles learned in the days before the proclamation of Acts 2 (see What the Apostles Learned and When They Learned It), they would never read Psalm 8 the same way again.  Neither should we.

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.

 

Genesis 4:26

Genesis 4:26 (NASB) includes these words “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.”  This foreshadows what we see taking place in Acts 2.

By the beginning of Acts 2, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.  From there, He pours out the Holy Spirit on the 120 (including the apostles) who were assembled, praying, and waiting in Jerusalem for this very outpouring (because Jesus had promised it to them).  As a crowd gathers, Peter begins his explanation of the event by quoting the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32) which speaks of everyone who “calls upon the name of the Lord” being saved.  Peter proceeds to quote other passages (from what the apostles called “the Scriptures” and we call “the Old Testament”) which he connects to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Peter then dramatically announces to the surrounding crowd that God has made this Jesus “Lord” (Acts 2:34-36) and goes on to exhort them to call upon Jesus, the name of the Lord – evoking his previous mention of Joel’s prophecy about the name of the Lord.

When Jesus was on earth, people could approach Him as they could any human being.  But now that He was in the heavens at the right hand of God, they had to “approach” Him the way they had always “approached” God: by calling on His name.  On earth, Jesus had lived as a man; in heaven, He now lived as a god – and needed to be addressed as such.  Had the believing Jews not clung so tightly to the longstanding prophecies of Messiah and of resurrection, they might not have even been able to contemplate such a change in circumstance for Jesus.  But if this was the way God chose to reveal His Messiah and begin the resurrection, they would believe it!  May we learn from them and imitate their example by calling on the name of the Lord: Jesus 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.

The Apostles Believed Their Lord About the Timing of His Second Coming

Jesus made clear that He would return in His kingdom before His contemporaries would all pass away.  In other words, He would return in that generation.  We see His teaching about this time frame recorded in multiple places in the very first book of the New Testament: Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 23:36; 24:34.  The other gospels also testify of Jesus’ teaching on this point.

Throughout Acts – and all the epistles that follow – we see the apostles who wrote these documents accepting, believing, and declaring this same timetable, though often expressing the truth in different ways.  Most notably, the book of Revelation, considered by many as one of the last New Testament documents to be written, concludes with five statements all declaring the great event to be “soon.”

Truly, the apostles believed their Lord on this subject.  We should, too.

For more, see the post Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again or the full biblical case for this in Whatever Became of Jesus 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.

How Blind Can We Be?

When it comes to spiritual things, how blind can we be?  Apparently, we can be completely blind.  Consider what Paul said in Acts 13:27 (NASB) about the religious leaders in Jerusalem, that “recognizing neither [Jesus, the Messiah] nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him.”  Whoa!  The promoters and defenders of prophecy could only recognize it when it was in a book, not when it happened in real life.

Paul is telling us that it is possible to get to the head of the class in what the Bible prophesies and then not recognize those prophecies when they’re being fulfilled right before your eyes.  Stop a minute and think about that.

Actually, the process Paul is describing is worse than that.  He is saying we can actually be participants in the fulfillment of the prophecy – and even participants on the dark side of it – and still not recognize it.  This is why the Lord warned us against judging other people.  If we’re not careful, we can be the culprits in a morality play that we don’t even know is taking place.

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.

What the Apostles Learned and When They Learned It

It is a very interesting question to ask what the apostles knew and when they knew it.  While the 27 documents we have in the New Testament were not written to specifically answer this question, they do provide information that gives at least the beginning of answers to it.

The apostles were those individuals, twelve at first, who were chosen by Jesus from among His disciples to go out with His message.  They were obviously standout disciples, but even they often did not immediately grasp the things Jesus was telling them and teaching them.

While everyone who followed Jesus knew that He was special, for example, not everyone recognized Him as the Messiah of Israel.  When, in Matthew 16, Jesus famously asked, “Who do men say that I am?” and Peter famously answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus declared that God the Father Himself had opened Peter’s eyes to this truth.  Jesus subsequently warned Peter and the rest of the apostles present not to reveal this fact to anyone else.  Obviously, though many people in Israel were aware of Jesus and His amazing ministry, not everyone was aware, or confident, that He was the Messiah.

This ignorance or uncertainty about Jesus being the Messiah was to change dramatically once Jesus was raised from the dead.  You may recall that His apostles lost hope in Him when He was crucified – so much so, that they were slow to believe the early testimonies of His resurrection from the women who had visited His tomb only to find it empty.  The closing verses in each of the four gospels illustrate the great dawning that Jesus’ resurrection brought to the disciples.  And Jesus was not content to merely prove to His followers that He was alive forevermore, He wanted to teach them how all of this was happening according to what had been written in the Scriptures hundreds of years before by its many different authors.  Read Luke 24, paying special attention to verses 25-27, 31-32, and 44-48 (see also Acts 1:1-3, as it applies to the same time period), and see how much information Jesus was passing on to His apostles during this time.  As John 12:16 indicates, the apostles were beginning to recognize how practically all that they had witnessed of Jesus during the previous three years had been foretold in the Scriptures they had all heard since they were children.

The effect of all this teaching was most notable upon Peter, and fully apparent in his orations in Acts 2 and 3.  Remember that he had become so weak in faith that he even denied that he knew Jesus.  And yet we see him speaking with dramatic boldness about that same Jesus in Acts 2 and 3.  In Acts 4:13, even the opposition took notice of the confidence with which Peter was speaking.  It was what he learned from Jesus after the resurrection that made the difference.

We also see that the apostles’ learning continued even after Jesus ascended into heaven.  In Acts 10, Peter is learning about the degree to which God has accepted the Gentiles.  In Acts 15, Peter and others are still trying to absorb the full truth about Gentile involvement in God’s plan.  Galatians 2 gives particular insight into the false steps sometimes made by the apostles as they all sought to follow Him who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

God reveals Himself to us progressively (Proverbs 4:18), “line upon line, precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10).  The better you understand how He did this even with the apostles, the better you will understand how He does it with you and me.  We don’t “get” God all at once.  He dawns on us like the sun…if we’ll come out from the rocks we’ve been hiding under.

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 Name “Lord” in Acts 2

(If you haven’t already, you may want to first read yesterday’s post, The Name “Lord” in Acts 1.)

The name (or word) “Lord” appears 8 times in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles.  The bulk of this chapter consists of Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven.  The verses that precede and follow the sermon are narrative that give the context of the sermon.

The two key occurrences of the name “Lord” occur in verses 34 and 36.  This is the part of Peter’s oration where he quotes the prophecy of Psalm 110 in which King David declared that the Lord (God) would instruct David’s Lord (who would be David’s descendant and the Messiah) to sit at God’s right hand (the highest place of authority in the heavens).  This riddle (of David’s son also being his “lord”) had confounded the religious leaders of Jesus’ day as is evidenced in Matthew 22:4-46 (repeated in Mark 12:35-37 and Luke 20:41-44).  Of course, Jesus knew what no one else knew at the time and He therefore challenged the religious leaders to answer the riddle.  The answer was that the Messiah was indeed David’s descendant according to the flesh, but became David’s Lord through the resurrection.

Thus Peter boldly declared in verse 36 that the riddle had been dramatically answered – that “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  This striking declaration explains what would otherwise have been a strange quote of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21.  For the passage in Joel promises salvation to those who “call on the name of the Lord” and therefore Peter was claiming (specifically in verse 36 and again in verse 38) that “the name of the Lord” had become Jesus by virtue of His resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand.  Without Peter’s connecting the name of Jesus to the name of the Lord, a listener could have called on the name of the Lord while rejecting Jesus of Nazareth.  Indeed, those who rejected Peter’s message and Jesus did think they were calling on the name of the Lord in doing so – but they were wrong.

This was a startling development for anyone familiar with the Hebrew scriptures.  No longer could any verse which made reference to “the Lord” be read in the same way (and note that there are thousands of such verses in the Old Testament alone).  The resurrected Jesus had been declared “Lord” and thus given the Scriptures new life with a spiritual and not a fleshly orientation.  Passages like Psalm 23 and Psalm 27 would now be particularized and personalized around the exalted Jesus of Nazareth.

The many references to “God the Father and the Lord Jesus” which began and ended so many of the New Testament epistles was a clear and unequivocal reminder of the faith in which the apostles and their disciples stood: Jesus, the Son of God, had inherited the title of “Lord” from His Father.  To continue to read biblical references to “the Lord” without references to this transference was, and is, a denial of God’s will…and of reality.

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 Name “Lord” in Acts 1

The name (or word) “Lord” appears three times in the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles.

The first occurrence is in verse 6 where Jesus’ apostles address a question to Him beginning “Lord, is it at this time…”  Clearly they are questioning Jesus for it was Jesus who had gathered them and was speaking to them in the preceding verses…and it was Jesus who answered this question in the following verse.

The second occurrence is in verse 21 where Peter is mentioning Jesus and calls Him “the Lord Jesus.”

The third occurrence is in verse 24 when they began their prayer with “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two [Joseph or Matthias] you have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

Given that in this opening chapter the first two occurrences of “Lord” applied to Jesus, it is logical to assume that the third did as well – especially since there was no reference to “God” or “the Father” that would have offered an alternative understanding.  (Luke had mentioned “the Father” in verses 4 and 7 so he certainly knew how to make it known if the Father was being addressed instead of Jesus if that had been the case.)  It is also logical that this group would appeal to Jesus to name the replacement since it was Jesus who chose apostles in the first place.  The reason for addressing Him in prayer in that He is no longer on earth but now in heaven at the right hand of God.  There is no reasonable basis for thinking that this occurrence of “Lord” applies to anyone other than Jesus.  The assembled group had prayed, and they had prayed to Jesus.  It’s that simple.  (There was no formula of “praying to the Father in the name of Jesus as trinitarians would have it.)

Thus all three references to “Lord” in Acts 1 apply to Jesus and none apply to God the Father as some might suppose.

For more on how Jesus became “Lord” and what this means for our understanding of the Old Testament, see:

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

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

For more on what this means about following Christ, 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Distinguishing the Scriptures from the Bible

Most people, including me, use the terms “Scripture” and “Bible” synonymously.  Nothing I’m going to say in this post seeks to change that.  I do, however, want to draw your attention to something every Bible reader should keep in mind: that is, the differences between what was originally written by a Bible author and what we see when we read an English Bible today.

  1. The Scriptures were written by many different authors over more than a thousand years.  Therefore, the Bible was not written as a single book but rather is a collection of many writings.
  2. None of the original Scriptures were written in English.  Therefore, what we read is a translation from the original languages.
  3. The original Scriptures contained no chapter numberings, no verse numberings, no punctuation, no capitalization, and no footnotes.  All these have been added to help us read the text.

None of these facts should discourage you from believing that the Bible is the word of God and therefore true.  It should, however, discourage us from getting too hung up on any one sentence or wording or point.

There’s a reason God gave us a Bible with over half a million words.  The volume allows Him to repeat themes that are most important to Him.  The more important something is, the more the Bible repeats it – decreasing the chance that we miss the point because a particular word or sentence wasn’t passed on to us correctly.

The voluminous nature of the Bible also allows us to let one part of the Bible interpret another part.  That is, the documents in the Bible are constantly referring to each other.  For example, we can read Moses or Isaiah in the Bible but we can also read what others in the Bible said about Moses and Isaiah – deepening our understanding in the process.  This is especially valuable when we use the New Testament to better understand the Old Testament, and use the Old Testament to better understand the New Testament.

Therefore, while we rightly use the terms “Bible” and “Scriptures” interchangeably, we also rightly appreciate the “Bible” apparatus through which our “Scriptures” come to us.  In this way, the truth of the word of God has the best chance of shining through..so  that we can understand it, believe it, and act upon 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.

Our Amen to the Apostles’ Creed

Here is a text of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell.  On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

This version may vary here and there from whatever version with which you are familiar.  Nevertheless, all versions are fairly uniform.  While history generally does not ascribe these words directly to the apostles, they are consistent with the apostles’ teaching we find in the New Testament.  Therefore, we may accept the truths laid out in this creed and shout a hearty “Amen” – with one condition.  That one condition is that we acknowledge that what was future and imminent for the apostles must be past tense for us.  That is to say, the coming of Jesus Christ in judgment of which they spoke occurred in the imminent time frame that the apostles gave.  To say otherwise is not to say “Amen” to them at all.  It is to say that they were right about the idea, but completely off about the timing.  The New Testament is emphatic – from one end to the other – that Jesus’ return would occur in the lifetimes of the generation in which He lived.  It is foolish to accept the idea while rejecting the timing.

In fact, it is the folly of churches today that they recite this creed but then maintain that the coming in judgment prophesied by the Lord Jesus and the apostles has still not occurred – two thousand years later.  In other words, they say “Amen,” but don’t mean it!

If you truly trust the Lord Jesus and His apostles, however, you may say “Amen” in sincerity and in truth, for Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again and Judgment Is Upon Us.  For this reason The Kingdom of God Has Come and we should be 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.

Aaron’s Rod That Budded

Hebrews 9:4 speaks of Aaron’s rod which was kept as a reminder in the tabernacle – a reminder of God’s minor miracle (I say minor only in the sense of comparison with, say, parting the Red Sea).  The story is told in Numbers 17 of how the twelve tribes of Israel had been complaining about Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership.  God told Moses to have each leader deposit his rod in the tabernacle, Aaron’s included.  The next morning, lo and behold, Aaron’s rod had sprouted blossoms while the rest of the rods remained as they were.  The other leaders got the message.

Of course, all these rods used to be tree branches.  No one would have been surprised if they had sprouted blossoms while still connected to their respective trees.  However, having blossoms spring forth from a dead branch was obviously a sign that God indeed had chosen Aaron for his leadership role and the other tribes might just as well get used to it.

This experience foreshadowed Jesus Christ.  He is called “Branch” in several Old Testament prophecies.  In this case, He is the branch who bore fruit even after He had been broken off from the tree!

One of the great hopes of every Hebrew was to marry and have children – that is, to be a father.  Jesus was never married and was crucified, yet He has become the Father of many nations!  Abraham, at age 100, was too old to have children, and yet he had one.  Jesus was too dead to have children and yet He had many!  It is the branch broken off that has produced more fruit than all the others put together!

With God, nothing is impossible.

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 Jar of Manna

Hebrews 9:4 mentions the jar of manna which had been kept as a reminder in the tabernacle – a reminder of the time that God had fed the Israelites in the desert with bread from heaven.

Of course, bread from heaven is a type of Christ – a foreshadowing of He who would come from heaven to give His flesh as nourishment to the world.  His flesh was the human life He lived – perfectly moral in the midst of an immoral world.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness continue to be sustained by it to this day – as we will for all eternity.

The jar of manna also can speak of the Holy Scriptures written by the prophets.  They were God’s manna as well because they were the word of God – a precursor to Him who would be the embodiment of those words (Revelation 19:13).  Thus the jar is a reminder of that which fed us in the wilderness, before we came to the promised land flowing with the milk and honey of His presence.  You can also think of it this way: the jar of manna is a type of Jesus the written Word (Luke 24: 25-27, 44-48) which points to Jesus the Word made flesh (John 1:14), and who is now the Word made spirit (2 Corinthians 5:16; 3:17).

As Jesus said in John 5:39-40, we may study the Scriptures in search of eternal life but the Scriptures testify of Him – and He is the One who gives eternal life.  Jesus Christ is eternal life and we experience eternal life as we experience Him.  Thank God for the manna in the wilderness which leads us to trust in Him!

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.

Let Nothing Obscure the Preeminence of Christ

The New Testament makes abundantly clear, in practically every one of its books, that Christ is the preeminent work of God, the preeminent focal point of God, and the preeminent purpose of God.

Christ is to be the object of our love, the focus of our faith, and the standard of our obedience.  He is the Lord our God whom we are to love with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength.

Why then does the church today promote the Trinity, which obscures and confuses our allegiance to Christ?  The New Testament doesn’t proclaim the Trinity.  In fact, this word is absent from its pages.  Moreover, why does the church promote itself instead of Christ?  The New Testament never promoted church.  In the New Testament, it was the church that promoted Christ.  Today’s church promotes itself.  It says, “If you want to serve Christ, serve us.”  This is idolatry.

When you read the Bible recognize that the New Testament makes Christ supreme in its own pages.  The New Testament also draws Christ out of the Old Testament and makes Him supreme in its pages as well.  As a result, the whole Bible – from beginning to end and throughout both testaments – proclaims Christ.  Let all humanity serve Him and no one else.  Religious labels don’t matter.  Jesus is the God of every human being.

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 Redeemer God Replaces the Creator God in Our Consciousness

The God of the Old Testament was the Creator God.  That is, He was the one true God who had created heaven and earth and all that is in them.  After mankind turned against Him and sinned, God sought a way to permanently bring humanity back to Himself.  This initiative was one that took great patience and effort, for it spanned many generations.  It began in earnest when God chose a man named Abram (Abraham) to be His representative in the earth.  From the descendants of this man, God established the nation Israel and situated them at the crossroads of three continents – that is, in the Middle East.

Some two thousand years after choosing Abraham, God brought forth from the nation of his descendants a Savior named Jesus.  After Jesus was rejected by His generation, crucified, and buried, God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand.  The message was then sent forth throughout the earth that all humanity – not just the descendants of Abraham – should turn to this Redeemer.

This Redeemer, being at the right hand of God, possessed all the powers and characteristics of God – invisible to the human eye, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  This Redeemer God was to replace the Creator God in man’s conscience.  Of course, the Creator God and the Redeemer God are one – there is only one God.  But in our consciousness we needed to think of Him primarily as a Redeemer rather than primarily as a Creator.  This is because we intuitively recoil from a creating God because we know we have sinned against Him, but we are attracted to a redeeming God because He has died to redeem us from our sins.

Therefore, let us maintain a constant consciousness of our great Redeemer God.  In His kindness, our Creator God knew He needed an identity which we could more easily approach, and therefore He became our Redeemer God.  Christ is 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.

The Bible Must Be Spiritually Discerned

You have heard the Bible misquoted and misused enough to know that it can be misunderstood.  How can you properly understand the Bible?  First of all, it must be spiritually discerned.  That is, it was not originally written to us even though it was written for us.

Since it was addressed, in the case of the Old Testament, to the ancient Israelites, we must spiritually discern its meaning for us today for we certainly have no warrant to take its words at face value.  (Do you really want to sacrifice an ox?)  The New Testament, too, was written to a generation which lived almost two thousand years before us – people who lived in a culture and time before the kingdom of God had come.  Again, it takes spiritual discernment to apply its truths to our age.

How can you acquire the requisite spiritual discernment?  Simple.  Trust God who gives His Holy Spirit to any human being who looks to Him in sincere faith.  He will guide you into all the truth and make you to know the paths of righteousness.

This doesn’t mean you’ll always understand everything you read in the Bible, but it does mean you’ll understand enough to obey that day.  When God’s Holy Spirit gives you such understanding, be sure to act on it.  If you do, you will not only be blessed in what you do, but you will also understand more of the Bible the next time you read 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.

Something Greater Than Church Is Here

In Matthew 12, Jesus said that “something greater than the temple is here.”  He went on to say that “something greater than Jonah is here.”  He then said, “something greater than Solomon is here.”  Of course, He was speaking of Himself and the kingdom of God which was in Him. 

When the kingdom of God came in glory (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again), Jesus came in the spirit as King of the kingdom of God.  In the days of His flesh, He had been a subject of the kingdom of God.  In the day of Christ (also called “the day of the Lord”), however, He reigns as King of that kingdom.  Therefore, He can say by the Spirit, that something greater than the church is here: that is, the kingdom of God reigning over the whole earth.

Read the New Testament and you will see that the apostles looked forward with great anticipation to the imminent coming of the kingdom of God.  Once the kingdom came, they would forsake church in the same way that they forsook the temple – because the kingdom of God was greater.  In fact, the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ is the greatest of all the gifts God has ever given mankind in the 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.

The Bible Was Written for the People of God

The Bible was written for the people of God.

In Old Testament times, the people of God were the physical descendants of Abraham.

In New Testament times, the people of God were the spiritual descendants of Abraham (that is, those who had faith in God as Abraham had).

In our time, the people of God consists of all humanity.  This is because Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world.  When He came in His kingdom, all people became His.  God no longer makes distinctions between Jew and Gentile or even between Christians and Non-Christians.  All nations are His.  Every human being can trust the promises of God.

Therefore, the Bible has always been addressed to the people of God.  It’s just that the identity of the people of God has been expanding…until it now includes everyone!

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 a Book of Truth

 For the ancient Hebrews, the Bible was the governing document for their nation.  For the New Testament church, the Bible was the sustenance of their hope that the kingdom of God would soon arrive.  In both cases, those purposes were served long ago.  What then is the Bible to us today?

The Bible is a book of truth.  Because it wisely guided the nation Israel, and because it accurately prophesied the coming of a Savior in a kingdom, we may trust what it says without reservation.  The Bible has been vindicated and we thus have ample reason to trust it on all issues to which it speaks.

We look to the Bible for spiritual principles which we might individually obey.  We do not use the Bible as a club to beat others.  We humble ourselves to read and obey.  We will not always understand everything we read in the Bible.  In fact, there might be many more Bible passages we don’t understand than there are passages which we do understand.  Yet we needn’t fret, because God will only hold us accountable for obeying those parts that we do understand.

Most of all, we must view the Scriptures in the context of Jesus Christ, Lord of heaven and earth (that is to say, the God of every human being whether that human being knows it or not).  We are to understand the Bible as Jesus did.  He did not seek to build an organization.  Rather, He sought first to obey the Scriptures.  And, along the way, He taught others who wanted to learn from the way He was living.  Therefore, I should never look at the Bible as a way to get other people to do what I want them to do.  Instead, I should view it as a way God can get me to do what He wants me to do.

We need truth in our day.  The Bible provides that truth.  It does this most powerfully – and practically – when it proclaims Jesus Christ our Lord.  We should let 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.

Would the Apostle Paul Be a Christian if He Were Alive Today?

If the apostle Paul were alive today would he be a Christian?  No.  Oh, he might be a former Christian in the same way that he was a former Pharisee, but Paul clearly would not be a champion of organized Christianity.  On the contrary, he would be proclaiming Jesus Christ and faith in Him alone – just as he had done ever since his conversion.

Paul had been a Pharisee.  They had the best doctrine of any group in the New Testament.  Just as the Jews had more truth about God than the rest of the nations (John 4:22), so the Pharisees had more truth about God than the rest of the Jews.  This made the Pharisees’ hypocrisy all the more noxious to God and is why Jesus singled them out for such stern condemnation.  When Paul the Pharisee saw the light, he realized that the problem of the Pharisees wasn’t that they didn’t have truth.  On the contrary, they had it in abundance compared to most people.  Their problem was that they didn’t truly believe it, they didn’t obey it, they didn’t act on it – they only talked about it.  This made them take refuge in each other’s approval, and made them judges who condemned everyone else.

Assume Paul was born today in a Christian home and then read Philippians 3:1-16, substituting references to Christian pedigree and credentials for his reference to Hebrew and Pharisaic pedigree and credentials (remember, “Pharisee” was not a term of derision then as it is in our day).  When you do this, you will see how Paul would stand apart from the church today in order to proclaim Christ instead.  In other words, he would be true to the spirit of his words in 2 Corinthians 4:5.

Paul would be the same stalwart and energetic witness for, and lover of, Christ today that he was in the New Testament.  He would not, however, be a supporter of organized Christianity for the same reason that he was not a supporter of Pharisaism.  You are walking in the footsteps of Paul when you seek 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.

Jesus’ Blood Cleansed the Earth

Hebrews 9:22 makes the point that the Old Testament sacrificial system was intended to convey the necessity of blood for cleansing.  The writer then goes on to explain how Christ’s blood thus cleansed the heavenly places.  But let us not forget that His blood fell to the earth – and therefore cleansed the earth, too.  As it says in Acts 10:15, “No longer consider unholy what God has cleansed.”

Wherever we walk on the earth, therefore, let us consider it holy ground.  He has cleansed the altar of the earth with His own blood that we might lay down our lives as holy sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1-2).  There is no part of the earth that the cleansing power of His blood did not reach.  Therefore, wherever you walk – no matter how mundane it may seem to you or others – is special to Him.  Indeed, His blood has cleansed the earth on which we walk. 

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.

We Have the Mind of Christ

In 1 Corinthians 2:16, the apostle Paul declares that we have the mind of Christ.

A mind, of course, is a collection of thoughts.  In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul said that we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

If we have Christ’s mind, if we have His thoughts, how then do we appropriate them?  How do we apprehend them, dwell upon them, and act in concert with them?

The Holy Spirit gives us Christ’s thoughts.   If, however, we need a steadying guide – a standard by which we may measure our thoughts to see if they are indeed from God, we may turn to the Scriptures.

The most obvious examples of the mind of Christ (that is, His thought patterns) are found in psalms like Psalm 22 and Psalm 69, which the gospels quote.  These psalms give us a picture of Christ’s thought life, the inner workings of His mind as He showed us His kindness and then experienced our ingratitude.

These psalms are merely a starting place.  The Scriptures capture and retain for us thousands upon thousands of thoughts that inhabited the mind of Jesus as He lived His earthly life.  They are all there for our imitation.

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 Was First Written to Jews, But Now Speaks to Every Human

The Bible was written by Jews (both testaments).  However, the intent all along was that its words would have their ultimate meaning and fulfillment through Jesus Christ who would become Lord of all humanity.

Note that I said “Lord of all humanity” and not merely “Lord of Christians.”  Indeed He was Lord of Christians in New Testament times but that brief age was merely an earnest, a down payment, a deposit on the time when He would be Lord of all humanity.  His dominion over all humanity was accomplished at His Second Coming which occurred in the latter part of the 1st Century A.D.  (For more explanation, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)

Jesus Christ now reigns supreme as Lord and God.  He is not the God of Christians only, He is the God of all of us.  And through Him, the truths of the Bible are ours.  You do not have to become a Christian to appropriate its benefits, you only have to trust in Jesus.

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.

If Jesus Didn’t Go to Hades, How Was He RAISED from the Dead?

Proponents of the heaven-hell theory of afterlife have a hard time explaining why the Bible speaks of the dead being raised, but never lowered.

Just think, if good people go up to heaven and bad people go down to hell then good people would have to lowered from the dead if they came back to life.  The Bible says, however, that even Jesus was raised from the dead.

Throughout Bible times, everyone who died went down.  Everyone.  Since then, and because of Jesus Christ, everyone goes up.  Everyone.  Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:22 that just as everyone died because of Adam, everyone will live again because of Jesus.  If you’re not sure about this and want to study more than that one verse, see The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

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 Went Down to Sodom and Gomorrah

In Genesis 18:20-21 the Lord said that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah made a clamor that arose to heaven.  He then said He would go down there Himself to see if things were really that bad.  Either way, He said, He would know.

This passage is a type (or foreshadowing) of God taking on human flesh, coming to earth, and living as Jesus of Nazareth.  Sodom and Gomorrah, of course, is analogous to the world.  God found out firsthand that things in the world were indeed – and unfortunately – worthy of the sinful reputation it had earned in heaven.  By firsthand, I mean, of course, that He Himself was cruelly rejected and violently murdered.

Yet Jesus rose from the dead to forgive the world of its sins.  In doing so, He has shown us the right way to live.  Let us repent, therefore, forsaking the pursuit of our own desires.  Let us live instead for the love of God and our fellow man.  Praise be to the name of the Lord our God who has led us in His gentleness to live His 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 New Testament Is a Riddle to Which the Old Testament Is the Answer

Just as the Old Testament is a riddle to which the New Testament is the answer (this was the subject of yesterday’s post), so the New Testament is a riddle…to which the Old Testament is the answer.

Why do I say this?  Because even though the New Testament is a bright and clear revelation of the Messiah, it is also a mystery all its own.  Even the book of the New Testament that begins with the words “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” is itself a mystery.  Thus, the New Testament is both revelation and mystery.

If the New Testament is where you find the answer to the riddle of the Old Testament, where can we find the answer to the riddle of the New Testament?  In the Old Testament.

Again, just taking the book of Revelation as an example, there is hardly a phrase of its imagery that wasn’t first uttered and written by the prophets of the Old Testament.  Thus God, in His manifold wisdom, has so designed it that each testament is necessary to decode the other.  To God be the glory!

What, by the way, is the specific answer to the mystery or riddle of the New Testament?  That the Messiah was…God.  This is why the institutional church missed the Second Coming.  They were looking for Jesus in the flesh and He came instead as God.  (For explanation of this, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)  How does the Old Testament reveal that the Messiah was God?  In passages such as Isaiah 9:6-7 where the Messiah is called the “Son” and also “God” and “Father.”

Thus as the New Testament solved the riddle of the Old Testament by declaring Jesus as the Messiah, so the Old Testament solves the riddle of the New Testament by revealing the Messiah to be God -albeit in a way that could only be discerned once New Testament truths had been revealed.  To God be the glory!

No one suspected that Jesus might be God when He was walking the roads of Judea.  At that time, He did not even want word to spread that He was the Messiah, much less God.  God’s revelation of Himself comes to us in stages lest we be blinded by sudden light (Proverbs 4:18 and Psalm 97:11).  He “kept us in the cleft of the rock and covered us with His hand while His glory passed by” (see Exodus 33:21-23).  From Acts to Revelation, Jesus was declared the Messiah – the Son of God.  There were only hints that He might be more.  Once the kingdom had come, however, He could fully reveal Himself to us.  The Second Coming made Isaiah 9:6-7 clear in the same way that the resurrection had made the riddle of Matthew 22:41-46 clear.  Praise be to our Creator!  There is none like Him.

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 Old Testament Is a Riddle to Which the New Testament Is the Answer

God never intended that the Old Testament should present a clear and unambiguous portrait of the Messiah and the age to come.  On the contrary, God presented it as a mystery or riddle.  The mystery would be revealed (that is, the riddle would be solved or answered) not on humanity’s timetable but on God’s.  Thus during His earthly ministry Jesus downplayed the fact that He was the Messiah.  This fact was only trumpeted once He was raised from the dead and He ascended into heaven. That was God’s timing for revelation.  As Jesus said, “Nothing is hidden, except to be revealed” (Mark 4:22).  God keeps something hidden, until it’s time to reveal it.

The Bible uses the word mystery more often than it uses the word riddle, but their meaning and purpose is the same from His point of view.

For more on riddles in the Bible see Our David or Samson’s Riddle.

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

Follow the Steps of Jesus

In the days of His flesh, Jesus trusted the words of Scripture so much that they mapped His life.

For example, He could read Psalm 23 and see His Heavenly Father as His Shepherd.  If you have time, read through that psalm, line by line, visualizing Jesus and how He might have applied each line to Himself and His situation.  Especially consider “the valley of the shadow of death” in the light of His suffering and crucifixion, and “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” as hope for His own resurrection.

Now, picture Jesus exalted in heaven as your Lord.  Read through the psalm again, line by line.  Only this time, put yourself in the place of the sheep and see Jesus as the Shepherd Lord.  Apply each line to yourself and to your own life situation.  And don’t forget to focus on the last line as hope (and, because of Jesus, assurance) of your own resurrection.

This process is how you can “follow in Jesus’ steps.”  You will notice that this is just the process Peter was suggesting in 1 Peter 2:21-25 to his readers when he counseled them to apply Isaiah 53 to themselves.  That is, Peter was saying, “Just as Jesus followed the steps laid out for Him in Isaiah’s prophecy, so you can look to Jesus as Lord and yourself as the servant suffering for Him – if indeed you find yourself in a situation where you are suffering for Him.

Any place in the Scriptures (and you will find lots of them in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms) that you can see Jesus relating to His Father, you can then substitute Jesus for the Father and you for Jesus.  Through this process,  you can let the Scriptures map your life, too!  (By the way, the more you do this the more patterns you will find; and the more of these patterns you find, the more you will begin to recognize them in the way Jesus behaved in the four Gospels – for He was living His life according to the Scriptures).

For reinforcement in this process, go to See Jesus in the Scriptures, and Follow Him.

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.

If You Don’t Have Time to Read the Whole Bible, Start at the End and Not the Beginning

If you don’t have time to read the whole Bible, start with the New Testament.  That’s what I mean by starting at the end and not the beginning.

The Old Testament was written as a mystery…in hope of one day being revealed.  The New Testament was that hoped-for revelation.

Even the disciples of Jesus who knew the Old Testament could not comprehend the revelation until after Jesus had been raised from the dead.  How much less will we understand it if we don’t understand Jesus Christ first.

The Old Testament should be read in the light of the New Testament.

For more on reading the Bible when you’re short on time see If You Don’t Have Time to Read the Whole Bible, Read…

For more on how the two testaments relate to each other see The Old Testament Is a Mystery Which Only the New Testament Can Explain.

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 Versus the Kingdom of Man

When John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth came preaching the kingdom of God, they were announcing the end of religious hierarchy.

Since the time of Moses, the Israelites had been governed by priests, judges, kings, and governors whom God used to oversee the people of God.  Even in the run-up to the kingdom of God (that is, the time of the New Testament), He used apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, bishops, and such to oversee His people.

In the kingdom of God, however, the Lord alone would be exalted (Isaiah 2:11, 17).  When the kingdom came, all human authority between God and man was forever abolished (1 Corinthians 15:23-24).  This is why you can relate directly to God and do not need a church, a pastor, a priest, or any other human intermediary.  (As to the fact that the kingdom of God has indeed come see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again or The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now.)

Those today who say they have authority to stand between you and God are simply building a kingdom of man.  You don’t have to concerned with them.  In other words, there is no official church of God today.  No churches are sanctioned by God, and certainly no other religions are sanctioned by God.  Every human being is a child of God and “the people of God” refers to the whole human race. Jesus died and rose again from the dead that all people might belong to Him.  The Lord will know if you pay attention to Him (2 Timothy 2:19)!

Jesus Christ our Lord is present everywhere and you are encouraged to trust Him in faith and live righteously.  This is the kingdom of God and has nothing to do with human intermediaries.  Yes, there are those of us who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ (Would that every human being proclaimed His name!), but we have no authority, no title, and no place of honor.  We are just like you: subjects of 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.

The Apostles and the Prophets Witness Christ’s Sufferings…in Dramatically Different Ways

Jesus chose his twelve apostles from among His disciples.  They would be eyewitnesses to the world of what they had seen, heard, and touched of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is impossible to overestimate the importance of their role.  Had they been silent, the world might never have learned about the greatest life ever lived.

Even so, the Lord had provided Himself another set of witnesses hundreds of years beforehand.  The prophets of Israel were inspired to write of the Messiah to come.  They wrote about Him in many diverse ways.

When the apostles went out into the world to give their testimony about Jesus there were no gospels.  There was no New Testament.  Nevertheless, the apostles had an authoritative written record to which they could refer people.  It was the written testimony of the prophets that we call the Old Testament.

One of the many amazing juxtapositions of these two different sets of testimony is found in 1 Peter 2 where the apostle Peter paints a picture of Jesus’ suffering by quoting the words of Isaiah 53.  If you will go to Isaiah 53 and read it, you might think the description came from an apostle who was present.  Instead, it was written by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before Christ was even born.

Such stunning collaboration of writing, directed across the centuries by the hand of God Himself, bears witness to the uniqueness of Jesus’ story.  His story is true…and it is indeed the greatest ever told.

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 Old Testament Provides the Vocabulary of the New Testament

The apostles who wrote the New Testament used the terms and concepts they learned from the prophets who wrote the Old Testament.

Therefore, if you want to understand the New Testament better, study the Old Testament.  You will find that this enriches your understanding of the New Testament because so many phrases and points of view come directly from the Old Testament.

For example, the New Testament says over 20 times that when Jesus ascended into heaven He sat “at the right hand of God.”  Where did the apostles get this idea?  The Old Testament.  Specifically, Psalm 110.  After He was raised from the dead and before He ascended into heaven, Jesus taught His disciples how the Scriptures had spoken of Him in ways they had not previously understood (Luke 24:25-27).  This was not just a matter of pointing to a few verses.  Rather, it was a way of understanding the Scriptures that would serve them going forward (Luke 24:44-45).  The Lord Himself gave the apostles this way of understanding the Old Testament.  It is this way of thinking that guided their writing of the New Testament.

Not everyone has all the time they’d like to study the Bible, but when you read the New Testament always remember that there is richness of explanation and insight waiting in the Old Testament.

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.

If You Don’t Have Time to Read the Whole Bible, Read…

If you don’t have time to read the whole Bible, read the New Testament.

If you don’t have time to read the New Testament, read the Gospel of John.

If you don’t have time to read the Gospel of John, read John’s first letter (1 John).

If you don’t have time to read 1 John, read 1 John 3:23.

1 John 3:23 is the Bible in a nutshell.

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.

Without the Old Testament, the New Testament Is an Unexplained Mystery

If there were no Old Testament, hundreds of New Testament passages would vanish for the New Testament writers were constantly appealing to the Old Testament.

The apostles appealed to the Old Testament because it gave the explanation and meaning of what they had personally witnessed: the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel.  Without an Old Testament, there’d be no Israel, no Messiah, no Nazareth, and no Jesus (who was Himself a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the Jacob whom God had named Israel, which stuck as a name for all the descendants).

Therefore, without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be the eyewitness testimony that a man had been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven – without any rationale for the event.  But no – it wouldn’t even have been that because Jesus would not have been crucified had He not answered in the affirmative the question, “Are you the Christ (i.e. the Messiah)?”  Had there been no Old Testament, there would not have been such a question.

Thus, without the Old Testament, there is hardly anything left in the New Testament to analyze.  With the Old Testament, the New Testament is the most wonderful explanation of God we could have ever imagined.  In fact, it is more than anyone ever imagined.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

Without the New Testament, the Old Testament Is an Unsolved Mystery

If there were no New Testament, we’d have to acknowledge that the Old Testament is but an unsolved mystery.

Consider the world today without the New Testament:  The Old Testament would have promised a Messiah who never came.  This would call into question the very existence of God.  For how could the Israelites have been redeemed from slavery in Egypt apart from the explanation of God’s miraculous involvement?  How could Israel’s prophets have given their lives for a God of their own imaginations?  Or, if you assert that God truly spoke to them, how could the promises they made on God’s behalf be so empty?

The Judaism of today must rely on tradition, other documents (e.g. the Talmud), and ethnicity to make up for the fact that the Old Testament by itself portrays either a God who promises things He cannot deliver, or a nation that invented its own God – neither concept very conducive to a successful religion. 

Better to simply acknowledge that the Old Testament was never intended to be presented to the world without fulfillment by the New Testament in a reasonable period of time.  Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth appeared some 400 years after the last Old Testament document was written.  Mystery solved.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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 Cannot Stand on Its Own

The New Testament cannot be understood independently of the Old Testament.  All the roots of New Testament thinking reach deep throughout Old Testament soil.

Without having the Old Testament as context, the New Testament would merely be the witness to a man raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.  As astounding as it is, this resurrection is insufficient for our edification, exhortation, and comfort without the explanation that the Old Testament gives to this event.

Through the New Testament’s explanation of the Old Testament, we understand that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the signature and inaugurating event which determines that humanity’s ultimate destination after this life will be in heaven (Everyone Is Going to Heaven).

To think that the New Testament is superior to the Old Testament, or somehow independent of the Old Testament, is therefore to greatly misunderstand it.  The New Testament and the Old Testament are two sides of the same coin – each depending on the other and utterly inseparable from each other.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

Since the Old Testament Is Not in Chronological Order, Why Does the New Testament Have to Follow It?

In ordering its individual books, the Old Testament does not follow a strict chronological order.  Rather, the books are grouped first by genre (e.g. law, poetry, prophecy), and then generally, though not always, in chronological order.  This categorization of books was deemed more helpful than a pure chronological ordering.

The New Testament, in its subdivisions, is likewise first ordered by genre (i.e., gospels, then epistles).  Moreover, the ordering within genres shows no consistent guideline of chronology.  Of course, this might be expected since the New Testament documents were all written by contemporaries and they did not include precise dates in what they wrote in the way that we do today.

Therefore, since date of writing is not fully governing the ordering of Bible writings, why then couldn’t the New Testament precede the Old Testament?  This would certainly lead to greater understanding for those who chose to read the Bible themselves in order to better understand God.

I am not suggesting that the interior order of either testament be rearranged.  Jews already order the Old Testament (what they call the Tanakh) differently from how Christians order it and this causes no insurmountable confusion.

I am only suggesting that reading the Bible beginning to end, as it is currently arranged, is inconsistent with the understanding that the New Testament gives to the Old Testament.  To read the New Testament first would allow the reader to better understand what the Old Testament says to us.

Specifically, the New Testament says that the Old Testament is about Jesus.  Reading the Old Testament without guidance on that point would be comparatively unproductive.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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 as Introduction to the Old Testament

If the New Testament were positioned before the Old Testament in our Bibles it would serve as a wonderful introduction to the Old Testament. 

The New Testament was written by the apostles.  The Old Testament was the only Bible that the apostles had.  They were not writing the New Testament to replace the Old Testament, but rather to explain it.  What better introduction of the Old Testament to read, therefore, than its explanation by the apostles of our Lord?

It is not necessary for our understanding that the New Testament sit before the Old Testament in our Bibles, but it would be more consistent with the Bible’s message if it did. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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 Not Put the New Testament Before the Old Testament in the Bible?

It is correct to view the Bible as a single book with a single author (God).  But it is also right to acknowledge that this book is a “library” – a collection of scores of writings which God inspired through many different individuals over a 1,500-year span of time.  These writings therefore reflect varied genres, styles, time periods, and personalities even though all the writers were associated with the nation of ancient Israel and shared its culture and values.   

Because most people are used to reading a book by beginning at the front and continuing to the back, and because they sometimes don’t fully appreciate the diverse library between the Bible’s covers, they start off in Genesis.  This is not a problem right away because Genesis contains some fascinating stories.  The same is true of the first half of Exodus.  The second half of Exodus, however, contains instructions to ancient Israel that don’t have any apparent bearing on life today.  Therefore, the reading gets sluggish.  Somewhere in Leviticus, readers hit a full stall…and some never recover. 

An interesting and valuable solution would be to put the New Testament first.  That way, the first document read would be the Gospel of Matthew.  The reader would be confronted immediately with Jesus Christ – the focal point of the Bible.  If the reader continued to read left to right, he would be thoroughly imbued with the importance of Jesus before tackling the Old Testament books.  Moreover, the New Testament books are constantly referencing Old Testament books so a context is created for reading the Old Testament properly.

What do I mean by “reading the Old Testament properly”?  The superficial meaning of the Old Testament documents gave way to their ultimate spiritual meaning through Jesus Christ.  For example, Isaac was a type of Jesus (Genesis), Passover was a picture of how Jesus saves humanity from its sins (Exodus), and the lambs offered in Leviticus typified Jesus’ unblemished sacrifice for us.  It wasn’t that the initial superficial meanings of those texts weren’t valid.  They were.  It’s just that such meanings were temporary until the One to whom all those writings pointed arrived.  Now, we look to the Old Testament to tell us about the same One the New Testament tells us about.

Some will complain that putting the New Testament first would put the Bible out of chronological order.  But the current order itself is not fully chronological.  Rather, the writings are grouped by genre within testament, and then only chronological order within genre.  And, even then, there are exceptions to strict chronological order within genre.   

The point here is that Jesus Christ is the subject of the Bible – all of the Bible.  Putting the New Testament first would serve to emphasize that point.  But it’s just a suggestion.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 4

If you want to read the earlier parts of this conversation, click on Challenge from a ChurchgoerChallenge from a Churchgoer – Part 2, or Challenge from a Churchgoer Part 3.

Churchgoer:  Well, at one point you said I did not use Scripture, but then cited verses that I alluded to. I was assuming you would know, and you did know the passages what I said was based on.

I guess I have a unique viewpoint having worked with churches of different varieties over many, many years.  Right now, I am in contact with about fourteen hundred churches. I have spoken in hundreds of fellowships and have had associations with hundreds of pastors and when all is said….there is not much difference. We are united by Scripture and a love of Jesus. I see how much we are alike rather than how much we differ. Isn’t it a contradiction to believe that all are saved, but then be so harsh on churches. If everyone is right and going to heaven then all churches are right too. In fact, it would not be possible to do wrong.

My response:  Yes, you mentioned two verses, but, as I showed, neither one justifies your position.  Thus your exaltation of churchgoing is rooted in tradition (or something else) and not Scripture.

Indeed, there must be something that unites you to these churches besides “Scripture and a love of Jesus,” because you and I both exalt Scripture and love Jesus…and you don’t seem to feel similarly united to me.

As for being harsh, I have not been more so with churches than Jesus was with the Pharisees or the moneychangers. Those groups, too, exalted their traditions over Scripture.

I do say that everyone is going to heaven; I do not say that everyone is right. Unfortunately, it is more than possible for all of us to do wrong. For this reason, God tells us to repent, and indeed repentance must be our lifestyle if we are to enjoy the fullness of His blessings in this life and the fullness of His honor in the next.

Surely you don’t mean to suggest that because everyone is going to heaven, we should feel free to sin – though it sounds like you do.

That everyone is going to heaven is an even better reason to repent than the possibility of going to hell, because the latter calls on a motive of self-interest (even self-preservation) while the former calls on a motive of loving Him who first loved us.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 3

If you want to see the earlier of this conversation, click on Challenge from a Churchgoer and/or Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 2.

Churchgoer:  I am not exalting the organized institution of “church.” I am confident of those people who attend that in some way they are there because they are seeking God and His Kingdom. Scripture says not to forsake the fellowship of the saints (other believers and not the Catholic view of Saints). It does not say you must be sitting on the pew at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. I go because I enjoy seeing the people there and seeing what I can learn from the sermon. Very often I am teaching SS or speaking at a church somewhere. I see a church building as a meeting place for God’s people and I appreciate all the church buildings and people that attend and built them as a witness of a kingdom phrase repeated in the NT, “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…..that fills the whole earth.” You know the statement. Each year 44,000 new churches open their doors for the first time. Everyday 166,000 people hear the Gospel for the first time. There are 27,000,000 new Christian every year. The Bible has been translated into 4661 languages. 74% of the world’s population has heard the gospel at least once. Whenever I go to speak at a church I always look for the cornerstone and when the building went up. I spoke at a church just over a week ago where the cornerstone said 1930. I expressed appreciation for the vision of those people during the depression that built that building as a witness and meeting place for God’s people. Eighty years it has been open and used for services. Isn’t that a great testimony?

My response:  The defense of church that you are here offering is quite similar to the one offered to Jesus of the temple in Jerusalem just before He was crucified in its shadow (“Teacher, behold, what wonderful stones and buildings!”). Moreover, it is a defense that could be offered – with numbers that vary, of course – by any member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholic Church, mainline liberal denominations, or any other kind of religious body that has buildings and is growing. Even Jewish synagogues could make this argument – not to mention Islam and other religions. There are even some social and civic organizations that could make this argument! Your threefold argument is essentially the same one any of them could make: 1) We enjoy getting together, 2) We promote God and His ideas, 3) Our numbers are growing.  Just as you believe in your organizations, others believe in theirs.

The most remarkable aspect of your defense, however, is that you offer no Scriptural foundation for it (other than a fleeting reference to the kingdom of God growing, which, again, could be applied to any organization that grows). I say “remarkable” because you started this discussion with an appeal to Scripture and its authority in such matters. Oh, yes, you did allude to Hebrews 10:25 but that verse says to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” Today’s Christians do not assemble together – they assemble separately. Even in small cities, there are multiple churches – often across the street from each other. How is that following Scripture? If Jesus wanted us to lay many church cornerstones there would be instructions in the New Testament to that end. Instead, we find reference to but one cornerstone – Jesus Christ Himself.

We do not need to build churches in order to translate the Bible and spread the gospel. In fact, church building just distracts from those more worthy purposes.

You say that you’re not exalting the “organized institution of church.” Yet almost every church today (at least in this country) has legal by-laws, corporate status, and a tax-exempt status – even the small ones. Where is it then that institutionalism is being avoided?

At one point you say or imply that there are well-intentioned people seeking God, going to church for that purpose. With this, I agree with you. But this is all the more reason we should warn and spare such people from the institutionalism that permeates churches of today. If we are to keep these well-intentioned people from being disillusioned, let us tell them of Jesus and spare them of church and the distractions it brings.

I return to that which you appealed in the beginning: Scripture. It says to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” You and I have no disagreement at all about the authority of Scripture. Our disagreement is about what Scripture authorizes. It’s pretty clear that it has not authorized the divided churches we see today. What it has authorized is the kingdom of God, which is invisible to the human eye but to which we all owe allegiance.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The Parousia by James Stuart Russell

I am not the first person to declare that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again – not by a long shot!

In 1878, James Stuart Russell wrote The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry Into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming.  In it, Russell argued that the Second Coming is an accomplished event – the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans being the most notable earthly fulfillment of that set of prophecies.  The book is still available today from a variety of sources.  It’s even available online, being old enough to have lost copyright protection.

I myself have not read the book.  I have read its Table of Contents (which is a quite thorough outline of the book) and sampled its pages.  I have also read reviews of the book – both positive and negative.  This is how I know the book’s basic argument.  I do not therefore offer the book as proof for my belief.  For that, I rely exclusively on the Bible.  I mention the book, however, so that 1) you may know that this idea of a past Second Coming is not unheard of, and 2) so that you might refer to the book should you find his arguments easier to follow than mine.

I should also mention that there is a school of thought called Preterism into which Russell’s views fall.  Not all preterists would agree with everything that Russell writes (in fact, there are varieties of preterists), but the point is, again, that the idea that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again is not one that is new to the earth.  In fact, there are preterists who trace their views all the way back to New Testament times, declaring that it is the “futurist view” (that is, the belief that Jesus’ Second Coming is still future) that is “the new kid” on the theological “block.” 

Again, I am not suggesting that Russell specifically or preterists in general would support everything that I write.  Nor am I suggesting that I would support everything they write.  Nor yet am I saying that I derived my ideas from any of these people because I certainly did not.  I learned these things by reading and studying the Bible, and only learned about these folks afterward.   

All I am saying is that even if not widely accepted, the idea that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again has been around for a long, long time and it has been held by many, many people.  If you’re rejecting it because it’s new to your ears, you owe it to yourself to check further.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Challenge from a Churchgoer

Churchgoer:  You know, Mike, most of what you say is very good and on target.  However, there are some points inconsistent with what the Scriptures say. Those points make the overall item as tangled as fishing line can get. Sometimes it would take pages for me to sort out what you say in a sentence, and I really don’t have time, and I question if you would listen anyway. Most of your ideas are rooted in Scripture, but what of the ideas that are not.  What is the source?  The reason for false religion are ideas that are man-made. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself.  By what authority do we change those ideas?

Here is an example….I understand the human failings of the local church, however you can’t throw out the biblical concept of The Church as it is the Bride of Christ. So when you speak of church, what are you referring to?  I am not expecting you to answer as this is an example of areas of what I feel is confusion.

My response:  You and I are in complete agreement that Scripture must be the standard by which all our ideas about God are evaluated, and that it’s the insertion of man-made ideas which tangles (like fishing line) and contaminates our thinking. On this point, I agree with you without reservation.

Where we part company is on the issue of which specific ideas are man-made. I think your idea of the church, for example, is man-made. Not the idea that the church is the bride of Christ, of course, for that is clearly a scriptural idea. Rather, it is your idea that today’s church is a legitimate heir to the New Testament church. Today’s church cannot possibly be the same as the one in the New Testament. For one thing, today’s church is not one body – it is a thoroughly dismembered body, with thousands upon thousands of different denominations.  Scripture makes clear that the kingdom of God is not divided. I could say more, but like you, don’t want to invest a lot of time in writing things that will not be given due consideration.

Perhaps we should simply agree to disagree, finding our common ground on this truth: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the life – and the more He is proclaimed, the better off the inhabitants of the world will be.

(See Part 2 of this exchange here.)

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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 Book of Hebrews – Gateway Between the Testaments

Every New Testament book provides linkage to the Old Testament because the apostles and their colleagues who wrote the New Testament documents viewed the Old Testament as the word of God.  They never called it the “Old Testament.”  Rather they called it “the Scriptures” or “the Law of Moses and the Prophets” or other such terms.  And they constantly appealed to its authority.

The book of Hebrews provides a particularly wide gateway between the two testaments.  In fact, to study the book of Hebrews is to engage in a study of the Old Testament because the arguments of Hebrews are built entirely on quotes, references, and allusions to the Old Testament.

If you would understand the Old Testament the way Jesus understood it, study the book of Hebrews. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The Kingdom Is the Lord’s

The last line of the last verse in the very short book of Obadiah says, “the kingdom will be the Lord’s.”

This describes the age in which we live…and in which we will always live.  The kingdom is the Lord’s, and the Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you would relate to God, relate to Him.  If you would seek the kingdom of God, seek Him.  If you would serve the kingdom of God, serve Him.

You see, the kingdom of God is a very personal thing.  It is the most personal of things.  God relating to you.  God relating to me.  God relating to everyone through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God has no human intermediaries.  You need no pastor, bishop, or other spiritual leader.  You need no group of brothers and sisters upon whom to rely.  You may relate directly to the Lord Jesus Himself and rely entirely upon Him.  For this reason God became a person, so that you could relate to Him on that basis.  He – the Lord Jesus Christ – has revealed Himself to you.

Do not think of the kingdom of God as an impersonal or ethereal thing.  It is personal.  Obey the king – it’s as simple and straightforward as that.

The kingdom is the Lord’s!

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The Sense in Which Predestination Is False

Perhaps you read yesterday’s post The Sense in Which Predestination Is True.  As for the sense in which it is false, there are those who teach a doctrine of predestination which says that only some people are  going to heaven.  (Of course, the “some” usually includes the people who are teaching this doctrine – how convenient for them!)  This doctrine is false, of course, because Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

This doctrine is also false because it is a form of fatalism.  That is, the supporters of this false doctrine believe that God has determined every aspect of a person’s life so that human beings are powerless to alter their direction.  God’s fundamental message to mankind is “Repent!”  This would be futile for Him to command if He’s the one controlling who can and can’t obey it.  Fatalism saps life and hope.  God, on the other hand, gives us life and hope.

Do not buy in to a doctrine of predestination that limits heaven to a few and renders every human being nothing more than a robot controlled by God.  Instead, believe that all of us are destined to heaven but that we have millions of choices to make that will determine how we get there…and what our experience there will be like once we arrive.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The Key to Understanding the Book of Revelation

The reason that the book of Revelation is so often misunderstood and misquoted is that readers jump over the easy parts and try to comprehend the hard parts.  If they paid more attention to the easy parts, they wouldn’t be so quick to distort the hard parts.

What are the easy parts?  Well, if you’ve ever tried to read it you’ll notice that it is a letter written by the apostle John on behalf of Jesus.  It’s directed to seven churches in seven cities of what we today call Asia Minor (John just says, “Asia” but since he names the cities we can look on a map and see where they are).

Both Jesus and John knew that the contents of the letter were likely to be misunderstood, so they make something crystal clear in the beginning and again at the end of the letter.  Two times in the first chapter and five times in the last chapter the letter says that the events described would occur soon.

It is impossible to misunderstand the letter on this point.  Yet people ignore this fundamental point all the time.  If the timing was near future in the late 1st Century A.D., how could it be anything other than past to us in the 21st Century?

Therefore, anyone who interprets anything in the book of Revelation as prophesying something yet in our future is off base, having ignored the book on one of its central and most easily understood points.

Read or re-read the first and last chapter of Revelation and look for the seven affirmations of the nearness of fulfillment.  Of course, if you think the book is wrong on this point of timing you won’t want to waste your time interpreting anything else in it because you would believe that it couldn’t be trusted.

The good news is that you can trust the book of Revelation.  Everything happened just as the Lord Jesus told the apostle John that it would.  For more, see All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled or Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

Would the Apostle Paul Be Building Churches Today?

The apostle Paul would no more be building churches today than King David would be slaying Philistines.  God works in context and now is not the time for building churches or for slaying Philistines.  It’s time for the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is what Paul sought, and what he taught people to wait for.  “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain!”  (Philippians 1:21), he cried.  That kingdom has since come (The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now).  Paul would not continue seeking the partial once the perfect had come (1 Corinthians 13:10).

There is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3).  Jesus had to admonish James and John about this when they wanted to call fire down from heaven on their enemies like Elijah had done (Luke 9).  What was right in Elijah’s time, however, was out of place in James’ and John’s.  Similarly, Jesus rebuked Peter about timing when he wielded a sword like David would have against those who were trying to arrest Jesus (Matthew 26 and John 18).  What was right for David to do against Goliath was inappropriate in the day of Messiah.  Likewise, churches were established in the New Testament to wait for the kingdom of God.  Since the kingdom God has come, church building is a distraction – out of place in the time of the kingdom.

Do today what Paul would do if he were here today:  seek first the kingdom of God (Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church).

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The New Testament Is the Key That Unlocks the Old Testament

So much of the Old Testament’s meaning is locked away from us because it can only be understood through what Jesus taught about it in the New Testament.

Apart from Jesus and the New Testament, the Old Testament is filled with regulations for offering animal sacrifice which no one wants to do anymore and promises about a Messiah who has not yet come.  But we do not have to view the Old Testament apart from the New Testament. 

All the sacrificial regulations taught about that Messiah who was to come and…He has come!

Therefore, we must read the Old Testament through these new eyes.  This means being heavenly, not earthly, minded.  This means having a spiritual, not a fleshly, orientation.  This means having a present, not a future, focus. 

Be done with hopes of rebuilding a physical temple in an earthly Jerusalem.  Books are still written today prophesying such things.  They are worthless.  More importantly, they mislead people where God’s desires are concerned.  God is a spiritual God and He is done with building earthly kingdoms – whether that be the nation Israel or whether that be the Christian church.  His sole interest is the kingdom of God, and it is available to every single human being.

Too many people are reading the New Testament with an Old Testament mindset.  They should be reading the Old Testament with a New Testament mindset. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The New Testament Makes the Old Testament into a New Testament

Some people erroneously think that the Old Testament was for people of the past and that the New Testament is for us now.  Or another way to say it is that they think that the New Testament rendered the Old Testament obsolete.

The truth is this:  The New Testament – by revealing Jesus Christ, His life, and His teaching – unlocks the Old Testament to new meaning.  More precisely, the New Testament’s understanding allows the Old Testament to be converted from a set of rules and regulations for an ancient nation to a set of spiritual truths that help every human being navigate life with God’s blessing.

Through Jesus Christ, the Old Testament become a New Testament.  It doesn’t read the same old way; it reads a new way, a way that gives life whether you are Jew, Gentile, Christian, atheist, or any other label you accept for yourself.

If you truly understand the New Testament, you will not read the Old Testament less – you will read it more.  For the Old Testament will never stop revealing grace and truth when read through eyes opened – and kept open – by Jesus Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Abraham or Jesus?

Abraham had a covenant with God.  All his descendants were heirs to the promises associated with that covenant.

Are you descended from Abraham?  If not, turn to Jesus and recognize that the promises are yours.  If you are descended from Abraham, turn to Jesus and recognize that the promises are better…and are yours.

The Abrahamic covenant spoke primarily to protections and benefits for this life.  The covenant of Jesus takes a much broader view, looking to the life beyond this one as far more consequential.  Nonetheless, what we do here matters, precisely because it affects that life to come.

Will we follow Abraham who could help us in this life, or shall we follow Jesus who helps us in this life as well as the one to come?  Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day (John 8:56).  Let us do the same!

The Bible Is God’s Explanation of Christ

What is the Bible?  Can you summarize its contents?  Yes.  The Bible is God’s explanation of Christ – which is to say God’s explanation of Himself.

The Bible’s first books were written by Moses who established the pattern of writing through God’s inspiration.  All of the prophets who wrote subsequent books which were added to the Bible wrote by this same inspiration.  The commonality of inspiration of all the Scriptures led to the common theme – God would one day triumph over every evil deed through the work of a Holy One He called Messiah, or Christ. 

The apostles of the New Testament recorded the manifestation of this Christ.  They also wrote by inspiration – the same inspiration: the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the Bible is about Christ – from beginning to end.  If you want to understand the Bible, accept this fact: it is about Christ – from beginning to end. 

That is it about Christ from beginning to end is more apparent in some places than others, to be sure.  But if you remember that its theme is always Christ, you are far less likely to distort the Scriptures. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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God Explains Himself by Explaining Christ

God explains Himself in the Bible by explaining Christ (that is, Messiah – meaning “the Anointed One”). 

The Old Testament prophesies of Messiah’s coming.  The New Testament reports how He came.  Both testaments are rich with insights still waiting to be unveiled to human eyes.  All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3).  All of them.

The reason that God explains Himself by explaining Christ is that God was – and is – Christ.  Therefore, to explain Christ is to explain Himself.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Through the Bible God Explains Himself

The purpose of the Bible is that God might explain Himself to us. 

God wants to be understood.  The existence of the Bible affirms this.  God wants very much to be understood.  The history of how the Bible came to be affirms this.

The Bible was virtually written in blood.  The prophets who wrote it were subject to persecution, even to the point of death.  After their lifetimes, they were honored.  But during their lifetimes, they were vilified.  Never was this more apparent than in the life of the Bible’s greatest prophet – Jesus of Nazareth. 

If God went to this much trouble to explain Himself, we who read this book should do our very best to understand it properly.  God forbid that an instrument He has given for revealing Himself become a means of our misunderstanding Him.  Alas, this has happened time and time again in human history.  Let us therefore cleanse ourselves of the sins that cause us to pervert and misunderstand the words of this book.

The Bible does not belong to Jews or Christians.  It is not an advertisement for Judaism or Christianity.  It belongs to all mankind.  Any person who can read is welcome to drink from this well.  It teaches righteous, which  begins in faith and which is what God expects from every human being regardless of religious affiliation.

Remember this:  The Bible testifies of Jesus Christ – the one true God.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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The Terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” Can Be Confusing

The prophets and apostles who wrote all the words we have in our Bibles were each writing individual documents at different times and in different places.  Well over a thousand years transpired between the completion of the first document and the completion of the last.  None of these authors lived long enough to see the entire set put together and called the Bible.  Therefore, the title of the Bible’s two main divisions – that is, Old Testament and New Testament – and even the title “Bible” itself were things in which these writers had no say.

It was subsequent generations of readers who chose the names “Bible,” “Old Testament,” and “New Testament.”  Bible simply means book, so there’s really no confusion there.  However, the titles “Old Testament” and “New Testament” do invite confusion.  (Be assured that I am not about to make a suggestion to change this titles – only that we don’t allow them to confuse us.) 

If you take the terms Old Testament and New Testament simply as way to divide the older Bible documents from the newer ones (the ones having to do explicitly with Jesus of Nazareth), then you’ll be okay.  Confusion begins,. however, when people think that those older documents have been made obsolete by the newer documents.  The New Testament does not render the Old Testament useless; on the contrary, it makes the Old Testament infinitely more useful than it otherwise would be.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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: Its Subject Is Jesus, Its Author Is the Holy Spirit

In a literary sense, the Bible is actually a library of many books with many authors.  In a spiritual sense, however, it is one book with the single subject (Jesus) and a single author (the Holy Spirit).

Jesus made clear in John 5:39-40 that to study the Bible and miss Him was to miss the point entirely.  The Bible points to Jesus – from beginning to end (Luke 24:25-27 and 44-45).  The New Testament speaks of Him explicitly and historically, while the Old Testament speaks of Him hopefully and prophetically.  If you think the Bible is about the creation of the world, animal sacrifice, the nation of Israel, and any other subject besides the Messiah, then you are missing the point.  All of these things are pointers to Christ; therefore, don’t let them be distractions.

As for the Bible’s author, it is claimed to be the Holy Spirit over and over and over (2 Timothy 3:14-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 summarize this point).  That is, human beings were not writing according to their own understanding – even when their own understanding was strong.  They were writing at the inspiration of the Spirit.  This was necessary to retain emphasis on the Bible’s subject (Jesus).  For how else could a biography be written in advance of the life that was to be lived?  How else could dozens of diverse human authors collaborate so effectively to paint a portrait of a single figure none of them had ever seen?

When you read the Bible, do not get trapped in the weeds.  When necessary, remind yourself that Jesus is the subject and the Holy Spirit is the author.  This won’t guarantee that you will understand everything you read, but it will guarantee that you don’t misunderstand what you read – and that protection can be very valuable. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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If Jesus Has Not Come Again, Then No One but Jesus Is in Heaven

If you think that Jesus Christ has not already fulfilled His promise of a Second Coming, then you have no basis for believing that anyone is in heaven besides Him (at least any human beings).  He said in John 3:13 that no one had ascended into heaven, and this confirmed Old Testament teaching which had made clear that Sheol (or Hades, as the Greeks called it) was the underworld where all the dead slept.  Paul made it clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 that no one would follow Jesus to heaven before those who had already died and he went on to say that this change in destination for the dead was tied to the coming of the Lord.  Therefore, if you don’t believe that the Lord has come, then how can you believe that any of us are with Jesus in heaven?

The good news is that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again and now Everyone Is Going to Heaven.  Let us rejoice in our God!

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Jesus Was the Only Person Who Went to Heaven During the Biblical Age

No writings have been added to the Bible since the completion of the New Testament.  From the beginning of time until then, Jesus Christ was the only person who ever went to heaven.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David – none of these great men went to heaven when they died.  The Bible makes this clear.  But it also makes clear that Jesus Christ  paved the way so that they – and we – could follow Jesus there when we die. 

What changed?  When Jesus came again He took all the dead to heaven and ever since then, whenever someone dies, they go to heaven.  He created a new heavens and a new earth so that this could be the case (Isaiah 65:17).  He went to heaven to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3) for, as I said above, there had been no place for humanity in heaven.  He abolished death (2 Timothy 1:10), took the sting out of death (Hosea 13:14), and thus delivered us all from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the rest – they’re all there now with Him.  And we will all join them!  To Jesus Christ be the glory for the great things He has done!   

For more explanation see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again and Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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If the Heaven-or-Hell Theory Is True, Why Does the Bible Teach Sheol and Hades?

If people were going to either heaven or hell after death, why does the Bible teach that Sheol is the destination of the dead?  (Hades, by the way, is simply the Greek word for the Hebrew term Sheol.)  The good news is that while Sheol was the destination of the dead throughout the time period covered by the Bible, the Bible promised that afterward everyone would be going to heaven.  Since we live in the time after the Bible was written, if we believe the Bible, we know that everyone is now going to heaven. 

Just as surely as everyone was going to Sheol, now Everyone Is Going to Heaven 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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If Some Go to Heaven and Some Go to Hell, Why Isn’t This Teaching in the Bible?

The heaven-or-hell theory of life after death has been around so long that no one ever questions whether or not the Bible actually teaches it.  People just assume it’s in the Bible.  It’s not.  You don’t have to take my word for it; you can search for yourself.  However, you won’t find it.

If you faithfully search the Scriptures, here is what you will find:  Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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If Christ’s Soul Was Not Abandoned to Hades, Wasn’t a Good Man on His Way to Hades?

In Acts 2, the apostle Peter says of Jesus that His soul was not abandoned to Hades, neither did His flesh suffer decay.  In doing so, Peter was speaking of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  By using this language, however, Peter makes clear that apart from resurrection, Jesus’ ongoing abode after death would have been Hades.  Indeed, as Peter indicates when he continues, this was the destination after death of King David long before.  If the Bible is thus teaching that good people go to Hades, how is it that some say it’s heaven or hell?  The answer is that just as all human beings used to go to Hades (the Hebrews called it Sheol) after death, all now go to heaven.

For an explanation, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

If Christ Died to Deliver Us from Fear of Death, Why Would He Then Introduce a Fate Worse Than Death?

Hebrews 2 declares that Jesus died not just to deliver us from death – which was wonderful enough – but also to deliver us from the fear of death.  In other words, He wanted us to know about His successful mission so that we would no longer be subject to the slavery brought about by our fear of death.  That is, as long as we knew no solution to the problem of our impending deaths (for we all know that we are all going to die), we were enslaved to all sorts of temptations, fears, and other wrong thinking.

Since it’s Jesus’ desire to liberate us from the fear of death, why would He then introduce the idea of unceasing torture in a place call hell which occurs after death?  The fear of death would pale in comparison to the fear of this!  Did He deliver us from one fear only to hand us over to one even greater?  No, and a thousand times, No!

This hell you’ve heard about is not of God’s creation.  See Everyone Is Going to Heaven

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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If Hebrews 10:37 Says That Christ Will Not Delay to Come Again, Why Do Churches Say That He Has?

If God went to the trouble to have the New Testament say that Christ would not delay to come again – and it was a lot of trouble  because people have died to bring these words to us – how can today’s churches contradict those words and say that Christ did delay?

Christ did not delay.  See any one of these five posts which will explain further:

Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again 

All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled 

The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now 

Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church

Why the Bible Can Be Trusted 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Why Do Churches Contradict the Bible to Which They Profess Allegiance?

Churches claim the apostles and the New Testament as their authorization.  Yet the apostles and the New Testament said that Christ would come again in that age while today’s churches say that He did not. 

Rest assured, however, that today’s churches are wrong.  Jesus did come again just as He said He would.  See any of these three posts:

Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again 

All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled 

The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now 

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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If You Can’t See Him at the Right Hand of God, How Will You See Him Coming on the Clouds?

At the trial before His crucifixion, Jesus was asked by the leadership of Israel if He was the Messiah.  He said that He was, and that thereafter they would see Him sitting at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62).  After Jesus was raised from the dead, He ascended into heaven.  Although none of the apostles testify to seeing Him take a seat at the right hand of God, they believed it…because Psalm 110:1 states that to be His destination upon ascending. 

If therefore no one physically saw Jesus sit down at the right hand of God, why do some insist that we will physically see His coming again?  The reality is that neither statement can be physically verified and both statements must be accepted on faith.  See Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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When the King of Israel Became King of the Nations

When Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead He was installed as king of Israel in the heavenly Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6-7; Hebrews 12:22-24).  From the right hand of God, He reigned as King of Israel (Psalm 110; Galatians 6:16) throughout the church age (that is, the days during which the New Testament was written). 

At the “Second Coming,” He was made King of all nations (Revelation 11:15; 15:3-4; Psalm 2:8), for He came up to throne of God itself (Daniel 7:13-14).  As to the fact that Jesus’ Second Coming is past tense, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.  Jesus reigns forever as the King of Israel and King of the Universe (Hebrews 13:8; Isaiah 9:6-7). 

Jesus Christ Is God!

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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