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Showing posts from August, 2019

Tribulation of the Church

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In Revelation, faithful saints experience “tribulation,” but the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth” undergo “wrath.”   John saw the followers of the “ Lamb ” exiting the “ great tribulation ,” having persevered through it. This striking image is central to the vision of the “ innumerable multitude ,” a company of men purchased from every nation by the lifeblood of Jesus. Having “ overcome ,” they stand triumphantly before the “ Lamb ” and the “ throne ” in “ New Jerusalem ” - [ Tornado - Photo by NOAA on Unsplash ].

Doomsayers and Christian Angst

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SYNOPSIS  -  Prophecies of impending doom should neither be rejected nor taken at face value. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”   By  Cédric Frixon  on Unsplash The year 2019 produced economic and political turmoil around the world -  Just as previous years have done  - And 2020 is proving to be even more tumultuous. Current armed conflicts are too numerous to count, “world peace” remains a pipe dream, the global economy is close to collapse, and a new epidemic is working its way rather rapidly through the population.

Order of Final Events

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In explaining the future resurrection, Paul listed the key events that would precede or coincide with the arrival of Jesus at the end of the age .  In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul outlined the events that will occur at the “ arrival ” or ‘ parousia ’ of Jesus, one of several Greek terms applied by him to Christ’s return. But regardless of which term he used, Paul always spoke of one “ coming ,” “ revelation ,” or “ appearance ” of Jesus at the end of the age - [ Photo by  Madeleine Maguire  on Unsplash ].

Sorrow Not – Resurrection Hope

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Foundational to the hope of the church is the bodily resurrection of believers that will take place when Jesus arrives from heaven .  Paul’s description of the “ coming ” of Jesus in his first letter to the Thessalonians was written to comfort Christians concerning the fate of believers who die before that day. Disciples must not sorrow “ like the others ”  BECAUSE  dead Christians will be resurrected when the Lord " arrives ,” and both the living and newly raised believers will “ meet him ” as he descends from heaven - [ Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash ].

Everlasting Glory - Resurrection Hope

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Paul reminded Timothy of Christ’s resurrection since false teachers were denying the future resurrection .  The resurrection is not a major subject in Paul’s “pastoral” letters, but he does raise the subject when dealing with the problem of false teachers at Ephesus. As he reminded Timothy, “ God did not give us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind .” The theme of “ sound teaching ” is pivotal to the three pastoral letters, and the future resurrection is a prime example of apostolic doctrines - [ Photo by  Verplaric Tokipukey  on Unsplash ].

Firstborn of the Dead

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To the Colossians, Paul emphasized the exalted position of Jesus that resulted from his death and resurrection  –  Colossians 1:18-19 .  In  Colossians , Paul stresses the exalted position of Jesus. Some members of the congregation were confused about Christ’s authority, especially regarding the spiritual powers that remain hostile to him and his people. Therefore, Paul reminds them of just how highly God has exalted the one who became the “ firstborn of the dead ” - [ Photo by  Lukas Gächter  on  Unsplash ].

Perfection in Resurrection

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Paul expressed his goal of going on to perfection, a process that will culminate in our physical resurrection when Jesus returns  –  Philippians 3:7-21 .  In the opening thanksgiving of his letter to the Philippians, Paul prepares his readers for a key theme of his letter – going on to “ perfection ” in Jesus. The promised bodily resurrection is necessary for their “ completion .” It is not optional but is an integral part of the future salvation they will receive when Jesus arrives in glory - [ Butterfly - Photo by  Joshua J. Cotten  on Unsplash ].

Resurrection Hope in Rome

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Paul links bodily resurrection with the New Creation. The “redemption of our bodies” refers to our future resurrection  -  Romans 8:10-23 .  In his letter to the  Romans , Paul presented his most detailed explanation of the gospel. His purpose was to deal with conflicts between Gentile and Jewish members of the church, and he was preparing the ground for taking the gospel to the western regions of the empire. In the process, he touched on related topics, including death, redemption, the Law, the resurrection, and the New Creation - [ Mountain Sunrise - Photo by  Damian Markutt  on Unsplash ].

Blameless in Holiness

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Believers must persevere in afflictions and pursue love so they may stand “blameless in holiness” when Jesus returns  –  1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 . After being driven from Thessalonica and Berea, Paul traveled to Athens where he proclaimed the resurrection of the dead before the Greek philosophical schools. At that time, he  sent Timothy  to strengthen the Thessalonian congregation in the  faith , which was even more necessary because of “ these afflictions ” endured by the Apostle and his converts  - [ Photo by Gerald Berliner on Unsplash ].

God Reigns over all nations - No Exceptions

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Nebuchadnezzar, the absolute monarch of the Babylonian Empire, boasted: “ Is not this Babylon the great and exceptional kingdom that I built by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty ?” ( Daniel 4:28-29 ). The king’s presumptuous words received an immediate response from an angelic figure, “ O King Nebuchadnezzar the dominion has departed from you…until you come to know that it is the Most High who has dominion over the kingdom of men, and to whomever he pleases he gives it .” Nebuchadnezzar lost his rational mind and was driven from society to live like an animal ( 4:28-33 ). After “seven seasons,” the king’s mind returned. He lifted his eyes to heaven to declare, “ Blessed is the Most High who lives forever! I praise and honor the One whose dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom endures from generation to generation .” From time immemorial, kings, emperors, and presidents have engaged in this kind of conceit. Nebuchadnezzar’s boast was nothing new. Babylo

Christian Response to Persecution

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When Christians react in kind to hostility, whether from government, society, or individuals, Satan triumphs  –  Matthew 5:12 . The reality of persecution in the Christian life raises numerous questions. For example, how should we react to our persecutors, especially when we are persecuted by governing authorities? Should we respond with indignation, civil disobedience, and public protests? Or should the disciples of Jesus follow his example and that of the early church? - [ Photo by  Keegan Houser  on  Unsplash ].

Priest Forever

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His priesthood is superior since it rests on his endless resurrection life, the promised priest after the order of Melchizedek  –  Psalm 110:4 .  Hebrews is structured around several comparisons that demonstrate the supremacy and finality of the “ word spoken in ” Jesus over the past revelations “ spoken in the prophets .” The previous “ words ” were true but partial, promissory, and preparatory. But now, “ upon the last of these days ,” God has “ spoken ” with great finality in one who is a “ Son ” - [ Photo by Quinsey Sablan on Unsplash ].

His Triumphal Arrival

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At the end of his journey, quite naturally, the destination of Jesus was the Temple in Jerusalem  –  Mark 11:1-11 .  The next several stories prepare the reader for his final days, the so-called ‘Passion Week.’ A full third of the  Gospel of Mark  concerns the events of that week and culminate in his death and resurrection. All that has preceded his arrival in the city has been moving inexorably forward to his arrest, trial, and execution in Jerusalem - [ Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash ].

Jesus Crosses Purity Boundaries - (Mark 1:40-45)

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  The Touch of Jesus Cleanses a Leper . Leprosy was a skin ailment, one of the most feared afflictions in the ancient world and particularly dreaded in Israel. Contracting leprosy meant inevitable death preceded by isolation from one’s family, home and society for however many miserable years remained in one’s life. Most ominous for the leper was his or her exclusion from the religious institutions and practices of Israel. In Israel, a man or woman who became infected with leprosy became “unclean,” ritually impure, and remained permanently so unless miraculously healed by God, an extremely rare occurrence in the Old Testament ( Numbers 12:10, 2 Kings 5:1-2 ). One old rabbinic adage claimed the healing of leprosy was as difficult as raising the dead. Some rabbis referred to lepers as the “living dead.” They were as “unclean” and distant from the Lord as the dead. Leprosy was both a disease and a “sentence” of banishment to a slow, painful and lonely death. A leper was, effectively, an e

Future Glory - Resurrection

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The Apostle Paul links the bodily Resurrection of the saints with the New Creation. The promised redemption includes both  –  Romans 8:1-23 . Paul begins the second half of  Romans  by declaring that, for all those who are “ in Jesus ,” there is “ now no condemnation .” This happy condition is because the “ law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set them free from the law of sin and of death .” And the Apostle goes on to link the salvation of believers with the inheritance of Christ and the  redemption of the created order  - [ Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash ].

Heir of the World

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According to Romans, the land promised to Abraham envisioned the inclusion of the entire world  –  Romans 4:13 . God began to redeem humanity with His covenant with Abraham, beginning with the summons for him to leave his homeland for the “ land that I will show you .” Yahweh would make him into a “ great nation ,” and in the Patriarch, He would “ bless all the clans of the earth .” And from the start, the land promise was central to the covenant - [  Earth Photo by  NASA  on Unsplash ].

Righteousness and Wrath are Revealed in the Gospel

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The section of Paul's letter to the Romans in chapters 2 and 3 presents the gospel as the Great Leveler; both Jews and Gentiles have fallen short and, therefore, both stand under the just “ sentence of God ” and destined for “wrath,” at least potentially. All men are “ without excuse ” because of each man’s sin and, therefore, none are in a valid position to judge others. Without Divine assistance, all men and women regardless of race, whether “ within the law ” or “ apart from the law ,” are doomed to experience God’s final wrath on a coming “ day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ,” for “ there is no respect of persons with God .” On that future day, “ God will render to each one according to his works .” The future aspect of God’s wrath is emphasized in this section of the letter, though Paul does not state precisely when it will be inflicted on sinful humanity. But it will be on “ the day on which God judges the secrets of men according to Paul’s Gospel t

Appointed to Tribulation

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His disciples escape God’s “wrath” but endure “tribulation” to which they have been “appointed”  –  1 Thessalonians 3:1-4 .  In the New Testament, the terms “ tribulation ” and “ wrath ” are  NOT  synonymous. “ Tribulation ” is what disciples endure for the sake of Jesus, but “ wrath ” is the horrific fate awaiting the wicked at the “ end of the age ,” the “ second death ,” which unrepentant sinners and apostates endure on account of their iniquities and betrayals - [ Lighthouse in a storm - Photo by  Marcus Woodbridge  on  Unsplash ].

Blind Bar-Timaeus Saved

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Jesus restored the sight of a blind beggar while he was “on the way” to his death in the city of Jerusalem  -  Mark 10:46-52 .  This is the last recorded healing miracle in Mark’s account. And here, Jesus is called the “ Nazarene .” Previously, he was only so identified when he exorcised demons, thereby delivering someone from demonic oppression. And in the  Gospel of Mark , the name “ Nazarene ” frames his first and last healing miracles - [ Photo by  Paul Skorupskas  on Unsplash ].

Greatness in His Kingdom

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His disciples are called to live lives of self-sacrificial service to others, just as Jesus gave his life a ransom for many  –  Mark 10:35-45 .  Having predicted his trial and execution, Jesus observed the disciples jockeying for position in the coming kingdom. He had taught them that citizenship in his kingdom meant a  life of self-sacrificial service to others . But as he approached Jerusalem, even his closest followers had a very different idea of what it meant to “rule” in his realm - [ Great Mountain - Photo by  Daniel Bynum  on Unsplash ].

His Imminent Death

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Jesus explained that he was “on the way” to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, tried, and executed per the plan of God  –  Mark 10:32-34 .  Once again,  Mark  stresses that Jesus is “ on the way ” as he continues his journey to Jerusalem and his inevitable death. This same theme occurs several times in  Mark , beginning with John the Baptist who “ prepared the way before the Lord .” Jesus was the  suffering servant of Yahweh  who was on the road from the wilderness to Golgotha - [ Photo by  Abolfazl Ranjbar  on Unsplash ].

Young Rich Man

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To follow Jesus is to surrender one’s entire life to him, and to walk wherever he leads with no questions asked  –  Mark 10:17-31 .  One day, a young rich man approached Jesus to ask what he should do to inherit everlasting life. Here, the reader is confronted with the cost of discipleship. In the version in  Matthew , the man is labeled “ young .” In  Luke , he is a “ ruler ,” presumably, of the local synagogue. And his haste to ask this question points to his sincerity - [ Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash ].

Literal and Non-literal Language

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Revelation informs the reader from the very first verse of the book that it communicates symbolically .  Must prophecy be interpreted only or primarily in the most “literal” fashion possible unless, of course, a passage specifically indicates otherwise? Often in our minds, there is an unstated assumption that  literal  language is more reliable than  nonliteral  language, an assumption that becomes especially problematic when interpreting  Revelation  - [ Photo by  Paul Skorupskas  on Unsplash ].

Taking the Mark

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When we imbibe the values of the existing world order, we begin to take the "mark of the Beast” - Revelation 13:16-17 .  Discussions on the “ mark of the Beast ” focus on deciphering the significance of its number, ‘ 666 .’ Understandably, we wish to understand it to avoid taking it. But to do so we must recognize the  scriptural background  behind it, the difference between the “ mark ” and the “ seal of God ”, and the identities of the two resultant groups - [ 666 Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash ].

Questions About Divorce

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Opponents questioned Jesus about divorce to trap him, but he used the issue to teach the higher ways of the Kingdom  –  Mark 10:1-16 .  In  Mark  and  Matthew , Jesus was confronted by religious opponents about the issue of divorce, but this was done to trap him with his own words. They did not intend to solicit an all-encompassing ruling on divorce from him. In  Mark , the incident is another in a series of confrontations between Jesus and the religious establishment associated with the Temple - [ Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash ].

Faithful and Unfaithful Disciples

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Faithful disciples will receive great rewards, but those who harm their weaker brethren run the risk of being cast into Gehenna  –  Mark 9:38-40 .  The next story begins with John complaining because someone who was not from among Christ’s inner circle was casting out demons in his name. But his complaint was rich in irony since just a few verses earlier the disciples found themselves unable to exorcise demons because of their unbelief - [ Salt - Photo by  Timo Volz  on  Unsplash ].

Cost of Discipleship

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To be a disciple means taking up the cross daily and following in Christ’s footsteps, even if doing so means death  -  Mark 6:7-30 .  Jesus commissioned the twelve disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God throughout the region. And in  Mark , their commissioning is followed by the execution of John the Baptist to prepare the reader for the rejection that will result from following Jesus. To walk in his footsteps, one must first count the cost to have any hope of seeing that journey through to the end - [ Precarious Path - Photo by  Ashim D’Silva  on  Unsplash ].

Disciples Stumped by Unbelief

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Unbelief hindered the ability of Jesus to heal some afflicted persons, not the lack of fasting or other ritualistic practices  -  Mark 9:14-29 .  When Peter, James, and John saw the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mount, the rest of the disciples were ministering nearby. But whenever they ministered when Jesus was absent, they quickly found themselves in trouble. And this time, as soon as the crowd saw him returning from the mountain, they flocked to him for healing and deliverance - [ Photo by DAVID NIETO on Unsplash ].

Transfiguration

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The Transfiguration was the confirmation of his status as the Messiah, and of the necessity for Jesus to suffer before receiving glory  -  Mark 9:2-13 .  In  Mark , the event known as the “Transfiguration” begins with the clause, “ after six days .” This is not just a temporal reference, but also a link to the preceding story in which Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. In response, he explained the true meaning of discipleship. To follow him, a man must “ deny himself and take up his cross ” just as the “ Son of Man ” did - [ Photo by Captureson Photography Unsplash ].

Fulfillment In Jesus

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The promises of the Hebrew Bible find their fulfillment and substance in the Son of God - in Jesus .  According to the New Testament, the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus. “ IN HIM ,” all His promises find their “ yea ” and their “ amen .” The things that were “ hidden ” in the past are revealed in the life, words, death, resurrection, and exaltation of His Son, the only one in whom all the shadows and types prefigured in the Hebrew Bible become real. All His mysteries are laid bare in Christ  - [ Photo by Jonatan Pie on  Unsplash ].

His Kingdom or Christendom?

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The deception of Christendom attempts to invoke God to validate national institutions and perverts the gospel of Jesus Christ .  Invariably, the mixing of church and State leads to the association and even the identification of Christianity with specific nations, cultures, and political ideologies. And when church leaders employ terms like ‘Christendom’ to distinguish one country from another, they replace the biblical faith with a false and even antichrist religion - [ Photo by  Greg Rosenke  on Unsplash ].

Three Repeated Warnings

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On Olivet, Jesus reiterated key information that is necessary for his followers to avoid being misled by deceivers .  Christ’s final block of teaching is commonly called his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ a series of instructions given to the disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before his arrest, trial, and execution. In it, three warnings are repeated that disciples must heed to avoid deceit and disaster, warnings about deceivers, the timing of his return, and the need for constant vigilance - [ Photo by Jennifer Uppendahl on  Unsplash ].

Spiritual Violence?

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SYNOPSIS  -  The point of his comment about violence and the Kingdom was that violent men were attempting to seize the kingdom of God  –  Matthew 11:12 .  In the  gospel of Matthew , Jesus described how “ violent men are seizing the kingdom of God .” This passage has caused great confusion over the centuries. Was he referring to malevolent men on the outside who would attempt to seize control of the Kingdom, or to the need for Christians to aggressively pray and otherwise press into it? Must his disciples “ forcefully seize ” the promises from God? Is the Kingdom to advance on the earth through forceful action? - [ Photo by  Elisabeth Arnold  on Unsplash ].

Governing Authorities

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Paul instructed believers living in the very heart of the Empire not to resist the government - its existence had been arranged by God  –  Romans 13:1-8 .  Writing to the churches in Rome, Paul presented principles for Christian conduct towards the State. Believers must “ subordinate themselves to governing powers: for there is no authority except by God ,” a statement written at the time when Nero ruled the Roman world, the very man who became the first emperor to persecute Christians - [ Roman Arch - Photo by Jace & Afsoon on  Unsplash ].

Shadow and Substance

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The types and “shadows” of the old covenant find their substance and fulfillment in the Son, Jesus Christ  –  Hebrews 8:1-5 .  In its eighth chapter,  Hebrews  highlights the incomparable benefits believers have received from the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus. If the fulfillment of God’s promises has arrived in him, returning to the incomplete revelations of the past amounts to embracing types and “ shadows ” rather than the substance that is available in Jesus - [ Delicate Arch shadow - Photo by  Zachary Young  on  Unsplash ].

Language of the New Testament

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Was the New Testament originally composed in Greek or Hebrew? Overwhelmingly, the evidence points to the former .  What was the original language of the documents that became the “New Testament”? For centuries, the consensus has been that it was written in Greek, yet in recent years, a growing minority has claimed it was composed in Hebrew, and then later translated into Greek. After all, the apostles were all Jews and first-century Jews spoke Hebrew. But what does the evidence show, and why does it matter? - [ Photo by  Mick Haupt  on  Unsplash ].