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Showing posts from December, 2021

Christianity's Forgotten Hope

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Central to the hope of the early church was the bodily resurrection of the dead at the return of Jesus .  Biblical Christianity is a forward-looking faith, and integral to its doctrine of salvation is the future resurrection of the dead, which also will mean the commencement of the New Creation. And in the New Testament, this hope is linked to two events: the past resurrection of Jesus and his future return at the end of the age. And salvation remains incomplete without it - [ Photo by Manuel Rheinschmidt on Unsplash ].

Recognizing Jesus

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In the Gospel of Mark, the Son of Man is revealed and understood in his sufferings and death on a Roman Cross .  A theme threaded throughout  Mark  is the complete inability of men to recognize Jesus as  the Son of God  until  AFTER  his crucifixion, and even then, paradoxically, he is declared the “ Son of God ” by the unlikeliest person, the Roman centurion in charge of his execution. His self-identification as the  suffering  “ Son of Man ” made him unrecognizable to men - [ Photo by Soul devOcean on Unsplash ].

Multiple Final Judgments?

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Each of the three sevenfold series in Revelation concludes with a final judgment scene at the end of the age .  Final judgment scenes occur several times in the Book of Revelation . All three of the sevenfold series of “ seals ,” “ trumpets ,” and “ bowls of wrath ” culminate in the final judgment, and each time punctuated by terrestrial and celestial upheaval. Those “judgments” are in addition to the one at the “ Great White Throne of Judgement ” when the wicked are cast into the “ lake of fire ” - [ Photo by Josep Castells on Unsplash ].

Imprisonment of Satan

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The Devil is imprisoned in the “Abyss” until the appointed time when he will be released and launch his final assault against the saints – Revelation 20:1-3 .  Next, Revelation presents Satan bound in the “ Abyss ” for the “ thousand years ” until his release at the end of the period. During his imprisonment, he is prevented from “ deceiving the nations ,” and only after his release will be free to do so. The passage includes verbal links to the expulsion of Satan from heaven in chapter 12 - [ Photo by Nathan Wright on Unsplash ].

Fiery Furnace

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Three Jewish exiles are cast into the fiery furnace for refusing to render homage to the “great image set up” by the king   -   Daniel 3:8-30 .  In the second chapter of  Daniel , the “ Chaldeans ” were demoted because of their failure to reveal the king’s dream. In the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s construction of his “ great golden image ,” they exploited the opportunity to inflict vengeance on three Jewish exiles for their earlier loss of face. Although loyal to the king, the three could not bow before the king’s image - [ Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash ].

Number of the Beast

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The “number of the beast,” 666, is based on the dimensions of the “great image” erected by Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon .  The “ beast from the earth ,” the “ false prophet ,” uses economic coercion and religious deception to induce men and women to “ render homage to the beast ” and to erect an image to it. All who do so take the “ mark of the beast ” or its “ number .” The language used to describe this picture draws heavily on the third chapter of the  Book of Daniel  - [ Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash ].

From This Evil Age

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The death of Jesus signaled the commencement of the messianic age with consequent changes in the status of the Law and God’s people   –   Galatians 1:1-5 .  In his opening statement to the Galatians, Paul declared that his apostleship was from the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, the one who gave his life to “ deliver us from this evil age .” This declaration anticipated his proposition that the arrival of the Messiah fundamentally changed the status and role of the Law for the covenant community - ( Galatians 1:4-6  -  Photo by  Joshua Earle  on Unsplash ).

What Must Come to Pass

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From the beginning, Revelation states that its purpose is to show God’s servants “what things must soon come to pass”   –   Revelation 1:1-3 .  The first paragraph of  Revelation  details its purpose, themes, and main characters, and that purpose is to show God’s servants “ what things must come to pass ,” and it establishes their timing as “ soon .” And the imminence of these events is emphasized by stating the “ season is near ” - [ Photo by  Nicklas Bajema  on Unsplash ].

Fifth Bowl of Wrath

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The first four “bowls” destroyed the economic structure of Babylon. The next “bowl” targets its political sphere – Revelation 16:10-11 . The first “ four bowls of wrath ” attacked the economic infrastructure of the empire used to dominate the “ inhabitants of the earth ” and to wage war on the “ saints ,” leaving the global commerce on which the “ beast ” depended destroyed. Now, the “ fifth bowl ” targets its political power and prestige - [ Roman Ruins - Photo by Frank Eiffert on Unsplash ].

Tent of Witness

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The destructive forces released by the “last plagues” echo the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea – Revelation 15:5-8 .  Having seen the saints standing victorious on the “ sea of glass ,” John then saw the “ sanctuary ” and the “ Tent of Witness ” opened in “ heaven ,” from which the seven angels with the “ bowls of wrath ” were dispatched to empty the deadly contents of their bowls upon the earth - [ Photo by Pars Sahin on Unsplash ]..

Seven Bowls - Overview

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Chapter 15 introduces the seven angels tasked with unleashing the “ seven last plagues on the earth ,” and chapter 16 describes their effects. They are labeled “ last ” because they complete God’s “ wrath .” The “ seven bowls of wrath ” comprise the third sevenfold series in Revelation , and all three culminate in “ flashes of lightning, voices, and claps of thunder .” - [ Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash ].

To Samaria

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Despite persecution, or perhaps because of it, the disciple began to preach the gospel outside Judea, beginning in Samaria  -   Acts 8:1-25 .  Prior to his ascension, Jesus commanded the disciples to “ tarry in Jerusalem ” until they received the Holy Spirit. Thereafter, they would become his “ witnesses ” and proclaim the gospel in Jerusalem and Judea, and then “ in Samaria…and to the uttermost parts of the earth .” The eighth chapter of Acts records the story of how the gospel came to Samaria - [ Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash ].

Final Day and Hour

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Revelation moves inexorably from the Death and Resurrection of Jesus to the final day when God judges the wicked and vindicates the righteous .  At the conclusion of his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus taught his parable of the  Sheep and the Goats . On the day when the “ Son of Man arrives in glory ,” his angels will gather  all  the nations before him for judgment, where he will divide them into two groups.  One will receive “ everlasting destruction ,” and the other, “ everlasting life .” - [ Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash ].

This is My Son!

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The Spirit of God and the divine voice from heaven confirmed the calling and identity of Jesus - Son of God and Messiah of Israel  –  Mark 1:9-11 .  In the gospel of  Mark , Jesus appears first at his baptism in the Jordan. The passage identifies him with his hometown,  Nazareth , a small village of no importance. But its very insignificance plays a part in the larger narrative -  Jesus is the Messiah who does not fit popular expectations  - even as he is anointed Messiah in fulfillment of Scripture - [ Photo by  Eugene Kuznetsov  on Unsplash ].

Lord of History

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Both Revelation and Daniel proclaim the absolute sovereignty of God over the course of history and the fate of nations .  In  Revelation ,  the “ beast ” is “ GIVEN ” the authority to operate for a period of “ forty- two months ,” power over the nations, and the right to “ wage war against the saints and overcome them .” Satan’s creature cannot wreak havoc upon the earth or against the church until authorized to do so, and only for the time allotted - [ Photo by  Giammarco  on Unsplash ].

Voice in the Wilderness

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John arrived in Judea to prepare the way for the Messiah and to herald the Good News of the Kingdom  –  Mark 1:4-8 .  All four gospels apply the same passage from  Isaiah  to John the Baptist. He was sent to summon all of Israel to repent “ for the remission of sins ” in preparation for the Messiah’s arrival and the Kingdom of God, and all this was in fulfillment of key messianic promises in the Hebrew Bible - [ Wilderness Photo by  Hendrik Cornelissen  on Unsplash ].