From Conversation to Revelation


Deutsch: Apokalypse aus Lutherbibelexemplar in...

Deutsch: Apokalypse aus Lutherbibelexemplar in Schweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Several years ago, when I was first contemplating a Ph.D., I did what most judicious students would do. I visited different seminaries and universities and thought through all my options. On one of my visits, I ran across an older, seasoned sage of academic endeavors. Our conversation turned out to be most refreshing.

 

The school I was visiting was not known for its biblical and theological acumen. Rather, it was well known for its program in Christian leadership. This professor, however, had a remarkable thirst for Scripture. He told me of his habit of choosing a book of the Bible and reading that book every day for a month. If one were to pick Jude, Philemon, or Habakkuk, that would be an easy task. But this professor was picking “real” books like Luke, John, and Revelation. It was, in fact, to Revelation that our conversation turned.

 

He had just finished reading the book of Revelation 30 times (day after day for a month). I asked him if he had figured it out. Surprisingly, he said, “Yes! The entire book opened up for me when I realized this was written to and for persecuted Christians in the first century.” Realizing the context of the book (first century) and the focus of the book (perseverance through suffering persecution) changed everything for this professor.

 

His testimony leaves us with a couple of helpful principles pertaining to Revelation in particular and to all of Scripture more generally.  First, context is significant. It is important to know as much about the original author and the original audience as possible. This information is gathered primarily from the text itself. John says in Rev 1:1 that he received a vision from Christ, and he was sharing it with the bond-servants of Christ so they would know what to expect in the near future.

 

John wrote the book to communicate to living Christians what God had shown him. Reading the book of Revelation with the idea that it is supposed to encourage Christians who are suffering persecution leads to strong words of encouragement for any suffering Christian. It also eliminates the need of deciphering cryptic codes to divine a road map for end times apocalyptic events. Jesus already told us no one knows the day or the hour. Revelation is not about that as much as it is about strengthening suffering saints. Knowing the context from the text makes the meaning of the text more clear.

 

A second principle easily deduced from this doctor’s discovery is that persecution is a significant theme in the New Testament. In fact, every writer (with the possible exception of Jude) touches on the subject. Almost every New Testament book contains instructions for believers about why they will suffer persecution and how they can respond well to it. Reading the New Testament on its own terms and using its own language and its own expectations—rather than injecting into it our 21st Century expectations and formulating truncated doctrines to support our conclusions—is really a refreshing way to explore God’s Word.

 

I am thankful for the simple, yet profound, conversation I was able to have with this aging academic. He was pious and genuine in his zeal and sound in his approach to the Bible and his consequent interpretation of it. These are but two of the helpful implications of that one conversation. Consider speaking to others about your Bible reading (and theirs) and see if similarly profound results do not occur.

 

Costly Mistakes and Christ’s Solution


The dead Christ.

Christ Crucified. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A costly mistake by the goalie at the end of their game against El Salvador cost the U.S. men’s soccer team the opportunity to play in the London Olympics. Because the Olympic team is made up of men under the age of 23, most of those on the team will never have an opportunity to play in the Olympics. One error—one mis-timed jump from the goalie—cost the entire team the chance to go for golden glory.

In a separate incident in Canada, a group of papermill workers received bills in the mail stating that they owed their former employer between $20,000 and $30,000 because of an accounting error by someone who administered their pension plans: a costly error indeed! What would you do if all of a sudden you owed someone $25,000?

Mistakes are often costly. What is true in the diurnal affairs of athletes and laborers is also true in the eternal affairs of every soul. Errors can be costly—even deadly. This past summer, a driver of a pickup truck made a costly mistake in operating his truck, causing the vehicle to veer off the main road, over the shoulder, and into a very large tree. The tragedy was compounded by the error of cramming 18 illegal immigrants into the truck before driving it into Texas. In all, about a dozen people died in that crash; several others were left in serious condition. Errors are costly.

How much more costly are those errors which affect the state of our eternal souls? The doctrinal error of disbelieving that Jesus is God the Son proves an eternally costly error for the unbelieving soul:

“He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

More to the point of grace, however, is the fact that God knows our weakness. He understands that we are but dust. We are earthen vessels. We all make serious mistakes. From ages past, God has made a way to cover not just sins but also mistakes. Our mistakes and our sins of ignorance are atoned for by Christ. God has shown this desire to forgive frail creatures throughout history. God has always offered His people an atoning work that is so complete it overs sins of omission and sins of commission. God’s atonement covers more than just the sins we knowingly committed; it also covers sins committed in ignorance.  God atones for every degree of sin.

Such mercy is indeed great. Ezekiel speaks of such a sacrifice in chapter 45. On God’s authority, the prophet says,

You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple. Ezek 45:20. 

The sacrifices of the Old Testament all pointed to God’s provision for His people—a provision great enough to cover  for sins of which people were not even aware. The completion of the sacrificial system happened in Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice of Himself, and His was no less magnanimous than the Old Testament version.

The sacrifice of Christ for His people accomplished a complete redemption, forgiveness, and cleansing. Thank God!, Our forgiveness and cleansing is not contingent upon our remembering and reciting every sin.  This is significant because, like infants, we don’t really have a clue about the damage our sins have done.  None of us knows the depths of our own sins. Christ knows and yet cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Making mistakes in our doctrines and beliefs may prove fatal, but getting doctrines right before God always proves to be life-giving, cool water for the thirsty soul.

Do You Believe in Miracles (Part 3 of 3)


However, the much more positive perspective on the miracles of Jesus is that they often led to faith (as was their

design).  When the man born blind received his sight in John 9, he said, “I believe.”  And he worshiped at the feet of

Miracle lame man healed

Lame Man Healed

Jesus (John 9:38).  When the lame beggar outside the temple was healed, he went out walking and leaping and praising God (Acts 9:8).  Such is God’s design for his miracles.

Undoubtedly, the skeptics and unbelievers will persist in denying the presence of miracles.  Jesus had his skeptics, as did C. S. Lewis nearly two thousand years later.  No one will ever prove the existence of miracles to everyone’s satisfaction, but the believer will hold to their reality with the vehement certainty of a mother who knows her own child.  Why?

The believer owes his very own spiritual existence to a miracle.  The plainest evidence to the believer of the reality of miracles is his own spiritual awakening to Christ.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that this spiritual awakening is a new birth, wrought by God (John 3:3, 21).  The Apostle Paul says that faith comes as a gift to the believer who is made alive by God’s hand at work, not as a result of man’s efforts—so that no one may boast before God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Every believer is a walking testimony to the reality of a miracle of grace.

A monthly publication called The King’s Business (published by Biola from 1910 – 1970) once told the story of the atheist Joseph Parker.  Upon his visit to a mining town in the north of England, Parker proudly lectured the crowds repeatedly on why it was foolish to believe in God and to believe in miracles.  After satisfactorily completing his eloquent refutation of the Christian faith, Parker prepared to leave the crowd to ponder how well he had demolished belief in Christ.

conversion a miracle A poor, dirty man in grimy, mining clothes stood up and offered his own simple reply to Parker’s polished unbelief.  Reportedly, the man said, “Sir, I’m only a working man, and I don’t know what you mean by the word ‘myth.’  But can you explain me?  Three years ago I had a miserable home; I neglected my wife and children; I cursed and swore; I drank up all my wages. Then someone came along and showed me the love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. And now all is different. We have a happy home; I love my wife and children; I feel better in every way; and I have given up the drink. A new power has taken possession of me since Christ came into my life. Sir, can you explain me?”

Every Christian believer stands as an apt refutation to the skeptic’s denial of miracles.

Jesus Is God Says John


Jesus Christ is Lord

The point of the Gospel of John is to demonstrate that Jesus is God so that the reader of the gospel would trust his soul into the care of this Jesus.  Folks who cannot see the divinity of Jesus in the gospel of John have not yet understood the gospel.  In fact, the reality of the deity of Jesus Christ fills the New Testament. If you don’t know Jesus as the incarnate God, then you don’t yet know him at all. He will not be accepted as a teacher or a moral leader or a good man–or even a prophet!  He must be accepted as God the Son if he would be your Lord and Savior.

Here is a nice, summary article on the teaching of Jesus as God in the New Testament.