Who Are the Two Witnesses in the Book of Revelation?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 8-11

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11.3-4)

There are many theories about the identity of the  two witnesses in Revelation 11.3. Some theories propose the two witnesses are:

  • Moses and Elijah
  • Enoch and Elijah
  • Two unknown people in the end times
  • Israel and the church
  • the Old Testament and the New Testament

You can easily find explanations of all these theories. But, I believe all of them suffer from one or both of two problems.

First, these interpretations try pin all of the symbols of Revelation to specific people, institutions, or nations in actual history. But, the symbolic world of Revelation is not a secret code to decipher actual historical events. The symbolic world described in Revelation is meant to help its readers see beyond the physical world to the spiritual world behind it so that our thinking can be changed.

Second, these interpretations believe all of the events of Revelation to take place in the future. However, if you do a careful study of the latter days, the last day, the end of days, etc. throughout the Bible, then you will find that the events described sound eerily like the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. All of God’s promises are yes in him. The completion of the fulfillment may be yet future in some cases, but the fulfillment began on the cross. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” This is the now but not yet nature of the kingdom of God at the present time.

Further, we rule out some of the theories based on other books of the New Testament.

We see Moses and Elijah at Jesus’ transfiguration just before his death in Matthew 17.1-13, Mark 9.2-8, and Luke 9.28-36. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared. Peter wanted to make Moses and Elijah equal to Jesus. But, a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” At that moment, Moses and Elijah disappeared. God’s people are to listen to Jesus not Moses and Elijah. Therefore, I find it very unlikely that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses.

Further, many Jews believed that Moses and Elijah would return. But, the New Testament indicates they already have come.

John the baptist was the return of Elijah. In Matthew 11.13-14, Jesus said, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” Also, Luke 1.17 says, “And he [John the baptist] will go before him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah.”

Jesus is the prophet like Moses that Moses himself prophesied about in Deuteronomy 18.15, 18. In Acts 3.20-22, Peter says, “That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.'” And, speaking of Jesus, Stephen said in Acts 7.37, “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.'”

Therefore, we can rule out any theories involving Moses and Elijah as the two witnesses.

Israel and the church are a popular theory for the identity of the two witnesses because two olive trees are mentioned in Revelation 11.4. But, Israel and the church, which is generally made of gentiles, are a single olive tree. Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree that is Israel. And, Israelites that have been cut off temporarily will at some point be grafted back into that same olive tree. (Romans 11). Further, God’s people are one. In Christ, there is no more Jew or gentile (1 Corinthians 12.13 and Galatians 3.28)

The theory of the Old and New Testaments as the two witnesses places far too much emphasis on a book. But, the book cannot be understood without the Holy Spirit. And, the world being witnessed to does not even acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit. Further, the book is not the witness to the world. God’s people are the witness to the world.

So, who are the two witnesses?

I think the answer is likely found within the book of Revelation itself. The seven letters to the seven churches Revelation 2 and 3 often seem to get treated as a completely separate book from the rest of Revelation. But, they are all part of the same book. There is a reason they come together.

In Revelation 11.4, we read that the two witnesses are identified as “two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” The only other time the word lampstand is used in the book of Revelation is in the first three chapters of the book in regards to the seven churches. Revelation 1.20 says “the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

But, in Revelation 11.4, why are there only two lampstands, two churches, two witnesses?

The answer is in the letters to the seven churches.

Each letter follows a similar pattern. Part of the pattern is that Jesus speaks a word of commendation and then a word of judgment to each church. But, the pattern gets broken on the word of judgment.

To the church in Ephesus, Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2.4)

To the church in Pergamum, Jesus says, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2.14)

To the church in Thyatira, Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2.20)

To the church in Sardis, Jesus says, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3.1)

To the church in Laodicea, Jesus says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3.15-17)

Jesus speaks a negative word of judgment to five of the seven churches.

However, Jesus does not speak a negative word of judgment two churches – Smyrna and Philadelphia. Instead, Jesus only commends these two churches and encourages them to remain faithful to his witness despite the suffering they will endure.

To the church in Smyrna, Jesus says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2.9-10)

To the church in Philadelphia, Jesus says, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3.8-10)

The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia are the two witnesses of Revelation. They symbolize any body of believers, any church, that holds to the faithful witness of Jesus Christ – that he suffered, died, and rose against for repentance and the forgiveness of sins – through their own suffering, even to the point of death.

In Revelation 11.4, the two olive trees are reference to a prophecy in Zechariah 4. He sees two olive trees and asks what they are. The angel tells him, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Therefore, the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, the two witnesses, are powered by the Holy Spirit and not by might and power. These two churches witness by their faithfulness in suffering. By might and power, war and violence, are how the kingdoms of this world make themselves known.

These two churches witness before the seventh angel blows the seventh trumpet towards the end of Revelation 11. When that seventh trumpet blows, “the mystery of God would be fulfilled.” (Revelation 10.7) Therefore, these two churches, two witnesses, witness to the mystery of God.

Where else in scripture do we see the mystery of God being revealed?

Who is responsible for making the mystery of God known?

“Assuming that you have of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3.2-11)

A mystery.

Made known to Paul by revelation.

To the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, the working of his power.

Through the church.

To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The eternal purpose of God realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The two witnesses are the faithful, suffering churches.

When we make the two witnesses anything other than the faithful, suffering church, then we give ourselves license to to slough off our duty to be witnesses now. We come to believe that it someone else’s duty to witness. We come to believe that the witness will  take place at a future date, in the end times.

But, the end of the age has already arrived. The kingdom of God is here now.

You are the witness now, if you are faithful to suffer for Jesus.

“Now the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12.10-11)

The two witnesses have been prophesying since Jesus was crucified. The two witnesses are prophesying now. The two witnesses will prophesy until Jesus returns.

Who Is Worthy to Open the Scroll and Break Its Seals?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 4-7

“And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?'” (Revelation 5.2)

Revelation 5.1 says that there was one seated on a throne who had a scroll in his right hand. The scroll was written “within and on the back,” but it was sealed with seven seals.

What is this scroll?

Almost everything in the book of Revelation is an allusion to something in the Old Testament. But, often John turns the imagery of thing being alluded to in the Old Testament on its head. So, it is with the scroll.

The scroll in the right hand of the one on the throne was sealed with seven seals. The Greek word translated scroll is biblion and also means book.

First, the sealed scroll is an allusion to Daniel 12.4, which says, “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” The previous verses give us an idea of what “the time of the end” is.

“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12.1-3)

At the time of the end there shall be trouble like never before in the history of Israel. There could be a time of worse trouble for Israel than when their messiah was crucified?

At the time of the end, Daniel’s people, Israel, would be delivered. Did not Jesus’ crucifixion mark the beginning of the deliverance of Israel?

At the time of the end those asleep in the dust of the earth would awake. It even seems that some of these would witness like the stars in the sky. Speaking of the time immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion, the time of the end, Matthew 27.52-53 says, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went in the holy city and appeared to many.”

Second, the sealed scroll is an allusion to Isaiah 29.11-12, which says, “And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read.'”

Whether one could read or not, the scroll couldn’t be read. It could not be understood.

But, what is the vision that couldn’t be understood?

Let’s just highlight one part that is important to the context of the scroll in Revelation. Isaiah 29.1-2 says, “Ah, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped! Add year to year; let the feasts run their round. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be moaning nd lamentation, and she shall be to me like an Ariel.”

The city where David encamped is Jerusalem. It seems Isaiah is calling Jerusalem by the name Ariel.

What does the name Ariel mean?

Lion of God.

As you read the rest of the vision, Jerusalem, Ariel, the lion of God, will be besieged and brought low. But, this vision was sealed, like a book that could not be read, “because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” (Isaiah 29.13)

Several times in the book of Revelation the number seven seems to speak of the Holy Spirit.

  • “from the seven spirits who are before his throne” (Revelation 1.4)
  • “before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God” (Revelation 4.5)
  • “with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God” (Revelation 5.6)

The Greek word for seal is sphragis. It means a signet. But, the meaning has the idea of sealing as fencing in or protecting from misappropriation. And, a signet is a stamp that is a mark of privacy or genuineness. We could think of this scroll sealed with seven seals as being sealed by the Holy Spirit to protect it and keep it from being misused. The Spirit also mark’s the scroll’s genuineness. These are interesting ideas when we consider the inspiration, or God-breathed, nature of scripture.

In addition to being “sealed with seven seals,” this scroll or book in the right hand of the one on the throne was “written within and on the back.” This is an allusion to Ezekiel 2.9-10, which says, “And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and back, and there were written words of lamentation and mourning and woe.”

It’s very important to read all of Ezekiel 2 and 3 for the full context. Ezekiel saw this scroll when he was told as the “son of man,” Jesus’ favorite name for himself, to go “to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels,” who rebelled against God. They were “impudent and stubborn.” God tells Ezekiel, “whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” “You shall speak my words to them.”

Sounds like the mission Jesus was sent on doesn’t it.

But, I really want to highlight that Ezekiel read the words of the scroll as words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

It is with this context, that John hears an angel ask the question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

At first “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.” (Revelation 5.3) So, John began to weep.

“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5.5)

Finally, there is one powerful enough to break the seals and open the scroll so that its contents can be read and understood. That one is the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Messiah. It’s none other Jesus. He can open the scroll because he has conquered.

But, refer back to the vision of Isaiah 29 that was a like a book that could not be read or understood by anyone. Jerusalem was like an Ariel, like a lion of God, besieged and brought low.

However, something is not as it seems. Something catches John’s attention.

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Revelation 5.6)

John thought it was the lion of Judah that had conquered so the scroll could be opened. The lion is fierce, powerful, strong, mighty, the king of beasts. The lion is at the top of the food chain.

But, in reality, the lion was a lamb. A lamb is weak, helpless, defenseless. It has nothing with which to protect itself. And, it’s not just a lamb, but the Greek word means a little lamb. Everytime you read the word lamb in the book of Revelation it is the Greek word for little lamb.

And, the lamb appeared “as thought it had been slain.” So, it was not the lion of Judah that conquered and was able to open the scroll of the book. Rather, it was the crucified lamb, Jesus Christ crucified, that had conquered. It was Jesus Christ crucified that the scroll, the book, able to be read and understood.

What is John saying?

I have filled my revelation of Jesus Christ with imagery from the Old Testament. But, the only way you will understand this revelation and all of the imagery of the Old Testament is to read to read it through the lens of the lamb that was slain and not the lion of Judah.

This revelation, indeed all of the Old Testament, the scriptures, can only be read and understood through the crucified Christ, the crucified messiah, a king killed by his enemies.

This revelation, the Old Testament, the scriptures, cannot be understood through a conquering king who defeats, destroys, and kills his enemies.

This is exactly what Jesus proclaimed the meaning of scripture to be.

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'” (Luke 24.45-46)

The Greek word opened here has the same root as the Greek word for open in Revelation 5.3, 5.

Recall from Ezekiel 2 and 3 that the scroll written on both sides could not be read because Israel was “impudent and stubborn.” They were hard hearted.

“But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3.14-18)

The “old covenant,” the old testament, the scriptures, are veiled.

What removes the veil?

What unveils, uncovers, reveals, the true meaning of scripture?

What is “the revelation of Jesus Christ?”

He is the slain lamb, the crucified Christ, the Lord.

When you turn to him and see Jesus this was, the veil that has covered the true meaning of scripture is removed.

But, the Lord is the Spirit.

The Spirit is the signet, the fence that keeps scripture from being misused. The seal, the inspiration, of the Spirit infuses the scripture with its true meaning.

Therefore, 2 Corinthians 3.5-6 says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

If you read scripture, the Bible, literally without first putting everything through the lens of the crucified Christ, then you get nothing but death.

But, if you read scripture, the Bible, through the lens of the crucified Christ by allowing the Spirit to open the seals protecting the true meaning of scripture, then you will only and always get life.

Therefore, Paul told the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2.2)

Recall from Ezekiel that he read the words written in the sealed book as “lamentation and mourning and woe.” Ezekiel saw that the son of man was being called to die despite speaking the words of God to the people of Israel.

But, notice the result of the crucified lamb opening the scroll so that it can be truly understood.

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign.” (Revelation 5.9-10)

Then the angels said “with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5.12)

But, not just the angels, for John says, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Lamentation, mourning, and woe has been turned into celebration, joy, praise and blessing.

Why?

Because the lamb, the Christ, did not just get crucified. He also rose from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24.45-47).

Death and resurrection life.

Interestingly, this is the meaning of the number 23 in scripture. According to Dr. Stephen E. Jones, the number 23 is written with the Hebrew letters kaph and gimel. Kaph symbolizes an open hand, and gimel symbolizes a lifting up. Therefore, it is the open hand lifting up from death.

The imagery, symbolism, and use of words is very intentional in Revelation.

Can you guess how many times the Greek word biblion, meaning scroll or book, is used in the book of Revelation?

23!

When we read the book that was sealed, the Old Testament, scripture, through the lens of the slain lamb, the crucified Christ, and not the lion of Judah, it takes us from death to resurrection life.

What Is Revelation About?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 1-3

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 1.1)

The book of Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse. This alternative title for the book derives from the very first Greek word in the book, apokalypsis. But, the name Apocalypse either has contributed to the confusion in understanding the book or is a sign of our misunderstanding of the book.

When you hear the word apocalypse, what comes to your mind?

Odds are the word apocalypse conjures up thoughts of devastation and destruction. Indeed, one of the meanings of the English noun apocalypse is a great disaster. And the adjective, apocalyptic, can mean foreboding imminent disaster or final doom or wildly unrestrained. Clearly, these meanings come from the extremely dramatic symbolic imagery in the book of Revelation.

But, none of these English meanings of apocalypse or apocalyptic have anything to do with the meaning of the Greek word apokalypsis. The Greek word simply means a revelation, an uncovering, a disclosure, an unveiling.

Somehow we have come to believe that “the revelation of Jesus Christ” in the book of Revelation is entirely different than the Jesus Christ is revealed in the other 26 books of the New Testament. Somehow we have come to believe that the book of Revelation says that Jesus is coming back to violently slaughter and kill millions of people, plunging them into an eternal lake of burning fire, even though that revelation would completely contradict the revelation from the other 26 books of the New Testament.

Further, the revelation of Jesus Christ as one who would violently slaughter and kill millions of people would completely contradict the revelation of Jesus Christ in the other four books of the New Testament written by John. John’s gospel is dominated by the words light, love, and life. The book of 1 John is also dominated by these same three words. And, we know the full meaning of these words through the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All of this points to Jesus Christ as the revelation of a God who suffers and dies for you to bring you life.

The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” appears three other times in the New Testament.

Galatians 1.11-12 says, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What is man’s gospel?

The gospel, or good news, was a term used of Caesar, the Roman emperor, returning from a successful battle in which he had militarily conquered and killed his enemies. The word gospel was used of a victorious king returning back to his capital city. But, this was not the gospel that Paul received from any man.

What was the gospel that Paul received through a “revelation of Jesus Christ?”

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4)

Unlike man’s gospel that had a conquering king that killed, Paul’s gospel had a Christ, a messiah, a king, that died and was buried. In Paul’s gospel, the king died of instead of killing. Therefore, Paul said in Romans 1.16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Doesn’t it make sense that Paul would say those words to the Roman church given what their mind would think of when they heard the word gospel?

The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” also appears twice in 1 Peter.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1.13-15)

Peter is preparing the hearers of his letter for suffering for the followers of Jesus Christ will suffer as he suffered. But, this suffering will result in praise, glory, and honor. They have a living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus after his suffering. The revelation of Jesus Christ will bring them grace.

The other three uses of the phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” have to do with the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These other uses do not involved Jesus killing anyone.

The same is true for the book of Revelation, which begins with the phrase “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The first time the noun apokalypsis is used in the New Testament is Luke 2.32. In fact, this is the only time the noun is found in any of the four gospels. This first and single use is from the Simeon’s blessing spoken over the baby Jesus.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2.29-32)

Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles in order to bring them to God. Therefore, the revelation that Jesus would bring was inclusive. It was meant to draw all nations and all peoples to God. It was not a revelation that Jesus would kill millions of people.

We can say exactly the same thing of the book of Revelation. If we read the book correctly, we will see that “the revelation of Jesus Christ” says “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5.9)

Also, there is a very important use of the verb apokalypto in the gospels.

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed [apokalypto] this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16.13-17)

The Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ.

Now read again the start of the book of Revelation.

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants.”

The same thing that the Father revealed to Peter is being revealed in the book of Revelation.

What is the significance of the revelation that Jesus, the son of man, is the Christ?

“And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus said it was necessary for the Christ to suffer.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer.

The Christ, the messiah, the king of kings, suffers.

Jesus suffers.

Jesus does not cause suffering.

He does not kill.

Not only does every one of the 26 books of the New Testament not Revelation testify to this. But, Jesus says everything written in the entire Old Testament, from Moses to the prophets, says the same thing.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer.

And, you think that the book of Revelation contradicts the other 65 books in the Bible?

Why was it necessary that the Christ suffer?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Luke 24.45-47)

It was necessary that the Christ suffer for repentance and forgiveness of sins.

This is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said that all scripture says this one thing.

This is the sum total, the revelation, of everything we need to understand when reading scripture.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, does not suddenly trump the revelation that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer. The book of Revelation does not change this necessary fact.

The Christ suffers.

He does not cause suffering.

In Galatians 1.13, Paul said, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” Paul was a murderer. He sought to kill, to persecute, to violently destroy, those that were following Jesus. He thought he was serving God by doing this.

What changed Paul?

God “was pleased to reveal [apokalypto] his Son to me.”

Paul received the revelation that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer for repentance and forgiveness of sins. Therefore, Paul went throughout the whole Roman empire preaching this gospel. He suffered and died as a result of preaching this revelation from God.

Yet, we want to think that the book of Revelation says something different. We want to think that the book of Revelation says that Jesus is going to return to violently slaughter and kill millions of people, sending them for eternity to a burning lake of fire.

Seriously?

That is not the revelation God gave to Jesus.

That is not the revelation Jesus gave to his disciples.

That is not the revelation of his son God was pleased to reveal in Paul.

That is not the revelation Paul preached to the Gentiles.

That is not the revelation of every single scripture.

That is not the revelation of the book of Revelation.

Every word God has spoken, every word and deed of Jesus, every scripture ever written says one and only one thing.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead three days laters for repentance and forgiveness of sins for all nations.

Read the book of Revelation with this one thing in mind and it will no longer be a mystery to you.

How Do We Confess the Coming of Jesus Christ in the Flesh?

TODAY’S READING: 2 JOHN, 3 JOHN, JUDE

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” (2 John 7)

John seems to make a very simple statement.

A deceiver, an impostor, does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.

But, it’s not as simple as it seems. For, to truly understand John’ statement we need to answer two questions.

  1. What does it mean to confess?
  2. Whose flesh is John referring to?

The Greek word for confess is homologeo. It is a compound word literally meaning the same word.

Generally, we think of confession as something done with our mouths. I believe this is why Christians have latched onto Romans 10.9-10, which says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes is and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Further, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12.3)

Therefore, American Christianity has made spreading the faith a matter of getting someone to say the right words. All that needs to be done is to get someone to say confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord. We just need to get people to make a profession of faith.

However, without denying these scriptures, we need to understand that true confession goes beyond the words that we say.

In Matthew 7.21-23, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, your workers of lawlessness.”

Here are people that say “Lord, Lord.” They are confessing Jesus with their mouths. They even do mighty works – prophesying and casting out demons. But, the implication is that they have not done the will of God. They are workers of lawlessness.

Why does Jesus call them workers of lawlessness?

They prophesied and cast out demons. Neither of those actions are against the will of God or against the law.

Jesus summed up the law in two commandments – love for God and love for neighbor. To be a worker of lawlessness is to be a worker without love. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 13.1-3, Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

We can say the right words and do the right actions, but if they are not motivated by love, then the words and actions are empty, hollow.

We can say “Lord, Lord,” but not do the will of God – love. Without love as our motivation, our foundation, Jesus will declare he never knew us.

In Titus 1.16, Paul says of deceivers, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” The Greek word for profess is homologeo. So, you can confess, say with your mouth, that you know God, but at the same time you can deny God by your works. While the verse doesn’t say it, it is likely that the works deny God because they aren’t done in love.

So, confession goes beyond merely saying the right words. True confession is made by works of love.

What is love?

Love is best known through the cross (1 John 4). Therefore, love can be defined by the giving of one’s self, one’s life, for the benefit of others. That we can most easily understand love through the cross shows that love is best known through actions not words.

So, whose flesh is John referring to?

Is John saying that a deceiver does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in his own flesh as a person?

Or, is John saying that a deceiver does not confess in the deceiver’s own flesh the coming of Jesus Christ?

A deceiver says one thing and does another. A deceiver can say with his mouth “Lord, Lord,” but his actions will not line up with those words. A deceiver’s mouth confesses Jesus, but his actions aren’t motivated by love. This can be known because in his own flesh, his own body, he is not giving himself for the benefit of others.

How did Paul make Jesus known?

How did Paul compare his ministry with those he believed were deceivers?

Paul did this through suffering in his own flesh just as Jesus. Paul touted his sufferings as proof of his confession because deceivers could not.

In 2 Corinthians 11.12-13, Paul says, “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”

And how does Paul boast in a way that is different than the false apostles and deceitful workmen?

By his sufferings in his flesh.

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands  of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11.23-28)

In Colossians 1.24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

Paul says in his ministry he has “renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways” and refuses “to practice cunning.” (2 Corinthians 4.2)

If he doesn’t use these tactics in his ministry to proclaim “the open statement of the truth” about Jesus, then how does Paul do it?

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4.7-11)

Paul’s open statement of the truth made in the sufferings of his own body. His confession was made with much more than words. He gave his very life for those he was ministering to.

A deceiver will have no problem lying, saying that indeed Jesus Christ came in the flesh.

But, a deceiver will never be able to show that in the flesh, in his own body, by his own sufferings.

All of this goes to show that we are to confess Jesus with words. But, much more than that, we are to confess Jesus Christ in the sufferings of our own flesh.

This then reveals that Jesus did not come to get us to merely believe the right things about him. He came to transform us. He came so that we could be conformed to his image.

Therefore, true confession of Jesus Christ is made through a life of transformation that has conformed us to the very image of Christ. We are now people willing to die on a cross with no self defense saying, “Father, forgive them.”

Jesus Proclaimed God Is Light, Love, and Life

TODAY’S READING: 1 JOHN

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1.1-3)

John is writing this letter to testify and to proclaim the eternal life. Eternal as in of God. The life of God.

John says that the eternal life was with God and made manifest to him and the other disciples. They heard and saw him. They looked at and touched him.

The one they saw and heard John calls the word of life. The logos of life. This is none other than the word, the logos, of God.

The word of life is the word of God.

John is clearly speaking of Jesus.

The word of life is Jesus.

The word of God is Jesus.

After this introduction to his letter, John goes on to testify and to proclaim three things of Jesus. In order (and that is important), John testifies and proclaims light, love, and life.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1.5)

God is light.

There is no darkness at all in God.

Therefore, if there is no darkness in God, then he cannot create darkness. Darkness is not of or from God.

Jesus proclaimed this revelation of God. Therefore, he contradicts Isaiah 45.7, which says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

Isaiah had a partial and obscured view of God. He saw through a veil. Therefore, he said God both formed light and created darkness.

Jesus alone has seen God. Jesus gives the clear view of God. Jesus gives the perfect revelation of God.

God is light. And, there is no darkness at all in him.

John then ties light with truth.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1.6-10)

Light is truth.

Darkness is lies and deception.

“God is not man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23.19)

“There was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53.9)

“I am…the truth.” (John 14.6)

John says that God is light was declared from the beginning.

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2.7-8)

We may not understand it as a commandment, but indeed from the beginning the darkness was passing away and the true light was shining.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1.3-4)

God is light.

God is truth.

It was so from the beginning.

But, darkness, lies, and deception are of the devil.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He…does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8.44)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light, then John speaks of love.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3.4)

Sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness is simply being without law.

Jesus summed up the law as love for God and love for your neighbor.

To be without law is to be without love for God and without love for your neighbor.

This is sin – not loving God and not loving your neighbor.

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps in sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3.5-6)

Jesus came to take away every word and deed that is not rooted and grounded in love. He never sinned, which means never said or did anything that was not from love.

“He committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2.22)

“He committed no lawlessness.” (Isaiah 53.9, Lexham English Septuagint)

“Although he had done no violence.” (Isaiah 53.9)

Jesus committed no sin, no lawlessness, no violence.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3.8)

“You are of your father the devil, and our will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8.44)

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3.11)

Did we hear this message from the beginning, in the creation?

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God mad the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.” (Genesis 1.6-7)

The separation of waters is a picture of baptism.

Baptism is a picture of dying. More than dying, baptism is a picture of choosing to lay down your life.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3.16)

The separation of waters on day of creation is a picture of love – Jesus laying his life down for us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4.7-10)

“God is love.”

“I am the way.” (John 14.6)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light and God is love, John speaks of life.

“If we receive the testimony of mean, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5.9-11)

John does not explicitly say it hear, but this testimony of God has been heard from the beginning too.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1.9)

The land coming out of the waters is a picture of life rising out of death – resurrection. It was from this risen land that all life flowed in the rest of the creation story.

God is life.

“I am…the life.” (John 14.6)

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.” (1 John 1.1)

“From the beginning.”

Jesus.

He declared:

  • God is light and there is no darkness at all in him
  • God is love and there is no sin, lawlessness (without love), and violence (killing) at all in him
  • God is life and there is no death in him

Therefore, Jesus declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14.6)

He said, “I am love, light, and life.”

The first three days of creation.

When the light of God shines on the love of God you have the life of God.

This is you becoming a new creation in Christ.

How Have We Been Called to Follow Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: 1 PETER, 2 PETER

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.21-22)

Peter says servants should be subject to their masters. Yes, be subject to the good master, although this is relatively easy and does not give you much, if any, credit or glory. But, be subject also to the unjust, harsh, or crooked master. For, if you do good while suffering for it, then that is a a gracious thing in God’s sight. In other words, doing good while suffering is a thing that God rejoices over.

Peter says this not as an endorsement of the master-servant relationship. He is not saying that the servant must remain subject to his master forever without exception. Peter is not saying that the servant is forever forbidden to seek freedom.

Peter says this for one reason only. Doing good while suffering, being a servant to an unjust master, is to follow in the steps of Christ. Christ did good while suffering, leaving us an example to do the same.

Peter then tells us exactly what the example is we are to follow.

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.22)

Peter is quoting from Isaiah 53.9. His quotation is fairly close to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which says, “Because he committed no lawlessness, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” The Hebrew version is similar, saying, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

So, we have the terms violence, lawlessness, and sin all used in the same place. Therefore, on one hand, these words interpret each other and may even be somewhat interchangeable. On the other hand, I think we can see a progression in the thought there Jesus did no violence, no lawlessness, no sin.

The Hebrew word for violence is hamas. It means violence and by implication wrong. According to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) the word implies “a strong, fierce, destructive force resulting in acts that maim, destroy, kill, often implying a lawlessness, terror, and lack of moral restraint.” Interesting, as that is exactly what many Christians think Jesus is going to do upon his second coming. Even though Isaiah 53.9 says that God’s servant, his messiah, “had done no violence.”

The first time hamas is used in the Bible is Genesis 6.11-12, which says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” The earth was filled with violence that was direct result of mankind, all flesh, corrupting his way of living.

In all the Old Testament there is only one that ever commits violence  – mankind. And, mankind’s violence returns upon its own head throughout the Old Testament.

“His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” (Psalm 7.16)

“No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58.2)

“Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” (Psalm 73.6)

“The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you.” (Habakkuk 2.17)

Not one time does the Old Testament say that God did violence. However, God is said to save and deliver us from violence.

“My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, my savior, you save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22.3)

“You delivered me from men of violence.” (2 Samuel 22.49)

“From oppression and violence he redeems their life.” (Psalm 72.14)

Even though the Old Testament speaks of violence done through trade and divorce, it’s easy to construe it as speaking of physical violence only. Then, those that want an excuse to soften the example that Jesus gave us to follow always ask, “What is violence?” In other words, “How can I physically harm someone and have it not be considered violence?” Or, they ask, “What about violence done in self-defense?”

Here’s where the Septuagint begins to provide a progression of what encompasses violence. For, the Septuagint replaces violence with lawlessness (anomia in the Greek) in Isaiah 53.9.

Lawlessness simply means without law.

But, what does that mean in the context of Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53?

Matthew 22.36-40 says, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus simply defined the law as love – first for God, second for your neighbor. Therefore, to be lawless, to be without law, is to not love, to be without love.

Peter takes it even a step farther by replacing lawlessness with sin. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It’s enlightening to see where the hamartia might have come from though. According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible, hamartia is from the Greek word hamartano. Harmatano is perhaps from the negative particle a, meaning not, and from meros, which means to a division or share (to get as a section or allotment). Hamartano properly means to miss the mark but with the idea of to not share in the prize.

Many Christians are aware of sin, hamartia, as missing the mark. But, seeing the possible derivation of hamartia, reveals that sin, by missing the mark, can be seen as a not sharing in the prize?

What is the prize?

The divine nature.

God’s life.

When we sin, we miss the mark and fail to share in the prize that is God’s life, the divine nature.

Therefore, Peter writes in 2 Peter 1.3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”

To sin is to be lawless and without love.

To be without love is to be violent.

We are violent because of our sinful desires.

James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

That Christ did no sin, now lawlessness, and no violence, and had no deceit in his mouth is exemplified in his crucifixion.

The cross is the epitome, the fullest revelation, of Jesus and God.

“But we preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.23, 24)

On the cross, sin was crucified.

Jesus bore our sin in his body. And, his body that bore our sin was cursed, hung on a tree, and crucified so as to kill every sinful desire that when they conceive give birth to sin and mature into death.

On the cross, love was fully displayed.

Jesus was crucified by the hands of lawless men, men without law, without love. But, love, God, was manifested when Jesus laid down his life to be crucified on the cross.

On the cross, God put to death the idea that he was in any way violent.

Jesus did not do violence of any kind during his life. And, he most certainly did not violence on the cross. Instead, he suffered every form of violence on the cross.

He was mocked.

He was derided.

He was spat upon.

He was slapped in the face.

He was stripped naked.

He was tortured.

He was crucified.

On the cross, Jesus suffered everything from evil words spoken against him to being killed.

Yet, he did nonce of those things.

What then is the violence we are to not do as the example Jesus set for us?

Everything from not speaking against someone to killing someone.

It’s all violence. It’s all lawlessness. It’s all sin.

Notice what Peter goes on to say after he said Jesus’ example was he did no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2.23)

When evil words were spoken of Jesus, he spoke no evil words in return.

When Jesus suffered, that is when he was crucified, killed, murdered, not only did he not do any violence in return, he did not even threaten those who crucified him. He only commanded (the Greek verb is in the imperative) his Father to forgive them.

He did not even threaten those killing him.

Why was Jesus able to do this?

Because “he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus just shared in the divine nature, lived out love, laid down his life for the whole world.

He simply obeyed the commandment to speak eternal life, forgiveness, his Father had given him.

But, Jesus left the outcome in God’s hands.

Why do we not follow Jesus’ example?

Why do we ask, “What is violence?” so that we can follow Jesus without picking up our own cross daily?

Why do we seek to justify our violent response to those seeking to kill us?

Why do we seek to justify speaking evil word to those harming?

Because we haven’t entrusted ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t given ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t put the overcome in God’s hands.

Instead of simple obedience, we want to control the outcome.

We want to save our life. But, we will only lose it in the end.

Instead of losing our life now to gain the very life of God.

But, this is the example Jesus has set for us.

This is how we have been called to follow him.

How Might Jesus Destroy Death?

TODAY’S READING: JAMES

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1.14-15)

Jesus became a man so that through his own death he could destroy the devil. Hebrews 2.14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Jesus’ death and resurrection launched his reign, and he will reign until all his enemies, even death, have been defeated. First Corinthians 15.25-26 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

So, Jesus is going to destroy the one who has the power of death. And, Jesus is going to destroy death itself.

Therefore, how might Jesus destroy death?

Here is one way Jesus could destroy death.

Those that do not believe in Jesus are those that are under control of the devil, who has the power of death. Because these people are under the control of the devil, they bring death to others. If Jesus brought all these unbelievers together in one place with the devil, say in a great end time battle, then he could destroy, kill, all these unbelievers and the devil. This would destroy death.

Although, Jesus would have had to bring death to many, many people in order to destroy death.

To me, it seems like this scenario would have Jesus multiplying death and not destroying death.

But, there is another way Jesus might destroy death.

Where does death come from?

James 1.14-15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Death is the fruit, the maturation, of sin.

Sin is the child, the offspring, conceived by evil desires in our minds and our flesh.

James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire [ same Greek word used in 1.14-15] and do not have, so you murder, You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

Desires that are for our own pleasure are covetous and lead to murder, death.

But, love “does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13.5) Or, love “does not seek its own.” (NASB) Or, love “is not self-seeking.” (NIV) Or, love “does not demand its own way.” (NLT) Or, love “is not selfish.” (HCSB) Or, love “is not self-serving.” (NET Bible)

Therefore, if Jesus wanted to destroy death without actually killing anyone, then he would need to destroy evil desires. Evil desires being those desires that seek something to spend it on ourselves instead of loving desires that seek to give something to others at the expense of ourselves.

Indeed, this is what we see Jesus doing in his own life.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went into the wilderness was “being tempted by Satan,” (Mark 1.13) “the tempter.” (Matthew 4.3) In three different ways, Satan tempted Jesus, trying to lure and entice him by his own desire. Satan was tempting Jesus to act for his own selfish interest. But, Jesus resisted each of these temptations, not permitting these evil desires conceive sin in him. Because there was no sin in Jesus, sin could not mature and bring forth the fruit of death in Jesus.

At the end of his life, the night before he died, Jesus was in a garden praying. His prayer was so intense that his sweat was like blood. Jesus prayed that his Father remove the cup from him.”

What was Jesus praying?

Was Jesus praying that he would not have to go to the cross, forget this whole kingdom of God business, and go about a normal life like everyone else?

Or, was Jesus praying to fight the temptation to not go to cross but bring about the kingdom about through the death and destruction of Israel’s enemies that everyone thought the Messiah would bring?

I think it is more likely the latter. Jesus was praying that he would not be “lured and enticed by his own desire.” Jesus was praying that he would not give into temptation.

Indeed, in the garden that night, he told the disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22.40) Instead of praying, the disciples kept falling asleep. And, the disciples ended up being “lured and enticed by [their] own desire.” “And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.” (Luke 22.49-50)

So, Jesus died to all selfish desires. Therefore, as Hebrews 2.14-15 says, through his own death, Jesus defeated Satan, who had the power of death.

Therefore, to destroy the last of his enemies, death, without causing death himself, Jesus simply needs to destroy evil, selfish desires within us. If he does this, sin cannot conceive and sin cannot mature into death.

Cut off evil desires and you destroy death.

Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10.3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Therefore, Paul says in Ephesians 6.11-13, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Therefore, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3.-12-15, “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

The judgment of Christ is not a condemnation of death upon anyone. Jesus came to destroy death and the devil, who had the power of death.

Rather, the judgment of Christ is a purifying fire burns up all evil desires within us. Then, death is defeated and all will have life. In this way, Jesus will fulfill the single commandment his Father gave.

“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12.49-50)

Therefore, Paul can say to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 6.13-15)

Jesus does not need, and will not, to kill anyone to destroy death.

To do so would be to create more death.

Instead, Jesus will destroy every evil desire so that no one can any longer be lured and enticed by them. Then, sin will no longer be able to conceive in anyone. Therefore, sin will not be able to mature into death.

How will Jesus destroy those evil desires in you?

Love.

Jesus will love you as much as it takes and as long as it takes for you to give up every selfish desire.

Death will be destroyed.

How Does God Discipline Us for Our Good?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 11-13

“It is for discipline that you have to endure…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12.7, 10-11)

A father discipline his son. The discipline is done to make the son like the father. Those qualities and characteristics that do not produce the life of the father in the son need to be removed.

How does God discipline us for our good?

In Hebrews 12.1-4, our endurance is compared to Jesus’ endurance. We are to look to him as an example of how to endure. Hebrews 5.8 says, “Although he was son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

What did Jesus suffer?

Hebrews 12.3 says he “endured from sinners such hostility against himself.” Hostility is antilogia, a word against, in Greek. A more literal reading might translate this as he “endured from sinners speaking against in himself. Jesus endured from sinners a denial of who he was in himself. In a sense, we, as sinners, demanded that Jesus be something he was not.

What did this look like?

Matthew 27.39-44 says, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ So also the chief priests, with scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, “I am the Son of God.”‘ And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.”

How difficult is it for us not to defend ourselves, to prove ourselves, in even the most minor of confrontations?

Yet, here is Jesus, the son of God, being crucified on a cross. And he is surrounded by sinners demanding that he prove he is the son of God.

Just come down from the cross.

Just save yourself.

If not, God, whom you say is your father, doesn’t desire you.

Not only did Jesus endure this hostility, this demand to prove who he was, he “endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12.2) He endured to the point of having his own blood shed.

And, Jesus learned obedience from this.

Obedience to what?

The one commandment his Father gave him.

John 12.49-50 says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Under this withering attack from sinners to prove himself and having his blood shed by these same sinners, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.34) Through all that he endured, Jesus obeyed the command of his Father to speak eternal life. For, to speak eternal life, God’s life, is to say “I forgive you even though you are killing me with your words and your actions.”

As I thought about what this must have been like for Jesus, the Holy Spirit brought to me the image of the burning bush in the desert that Moses saw. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” (Exodus 3.2) Earlier this year I wrote this in “Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush.”

Jesus is this bush that was continually aflame but never consumed. I felt the Spirit showing me that the continual burning of the bush symbolized the continual purification of Jesus to never say or do anything that his Father did not say or do. Jesus was continually aflame so that he always exhibited the life of his Father.

Hence, when Jesus appeared to Moses as this burning bush, he could to say to Moses his name is “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3.14) Jesus is “I Am.” In other words, “I am life.” As the bush that was continually aflame but never consumed, death was perpetually burned out Jesus. Death never had a place in Jesus. Jesus was perpetually purified from death.

So, how does God discipline us for our good?

Through fire.

This fire purifies us, removing those qualities and characteristics that do not produce the life of the father in the son need to be removed. Every thought and desire that produces death in us needs to be burned out.

Those thoughts are burned out of us as we endure words spoken against us that demand we prove who we are.

Have you ever been in situation where others are demanding you to prove yourself, yet you resisted their demands?

Is there not a burning going on inside of you as you resist the temptation to strike back with words that will contradict what others are saying about you?

When you are being persecuted unjustly and you only speak forgiveness, life, is there not a burning inside of you?

How difficult is this to endure?

How painful?

James 3.5-6 says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

When we let loose with our tongues, we can burn down everything around us. But, when we bite our tongues, not speaking to prove ourselves but only to forgive, then the fire remains in us, burning away all impurities so that only the life of our Father remains.

Proverbs 18.21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

How will you choose to use your tongue?

We endure through this discipline.

We learn obedience to speak life, to speak forgiveness, from what we suffer.

This discipline is for our good. The Greek word for good here is symphero. It literally means bear together.

This discipline we endure is so that we may learn obedience to commandment to speak life. Being disciplined to speak life, to forgive, we are able to bear together with each other.

Bearing with each other is hard in the moment, but it brings life in the end.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

What More Can Be Said of the True Tent?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 9-10

“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” (Hebrews 9.1-5)

The earthly place of holiness that was a tent made by man is obviously a reference to the tabernacle that Moses built. The writer mentions some features of the tabernacle – the curtains, the furniture, the cherubim, etc. – but says he “cannot now speak in detail” about these things.

So, what more can be said about the tent?

In Hebrews, the first mention of the tent is in Hebrews 8.1-2, which says, “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” The Greek word translated tent is skene. Skene means tabernacle. So, there is a true tent that the Lord, not man, set up.

Therefore, the true tent is something other than the tabernacle Moses built. But, the tabernacle that Moses built was patterned after something. “For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that shown you on the mountain.'” (Hebrews 8.5)

What was the pattern Moses was to use for the tabernacle?

Hebrews 9.11 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation).”

And, Hebrews 9.24 says, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

So, the true tent is “heaven itself.” Heaven was not made by men’s hands.

What is “heaven itself?”

Hebrews 10.5 says, “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’” God prepared a body for Jesus. Therefore, Jesus’ body was the work of God, not man’s hands. We could say that Jesus’ body, his flesh, was the work of God’s hands.

What else was the work of God’s hands?

Psalm 19.1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Now we have a link between the true tabernacle, “heaven itself,” and Jesus’ body – all three were the work of God’s hands.

The words “sky above” are the Hebrew word raqiya. Raqiya is the word translated firmament in Genesis 1. Now we have a link between Jesus’ body, his flesh, and the firmament, the heavens, heaven itself, that separated the waters above from the waters below.

But, remember that Moses built the earthly tabernacle after the pattern of the heavenly tabernacle. Therefore, Jesus’ body, his flesh, “heaven itself,” the firmament that separates the waters above from the waters below, heaven from the earth, is symbolized by the curtain before the most holy place.

What happened to the veil in front of the most holy place when Christ was crucified?

Matthew 27.50-51 says, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” When Jesus died, his flesh was pierced, torn if you well. The tearing of Jesus’ flesh was symbolized in the tearing of the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place in the temple.

All of this was a picture of the tearing of the firmament that separated heaven and earth in creation. Therefore, now heaven was invading earth through the crucifixion of Jesus. God was coming to dwell with all mankind.

But, notice Hebrews 9.8-9, which says, “By this the Holy Spirit indicates the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).”

The true tent, the true tabernacle, also represents that ages in addition to Christ’s flesh, the firmament, and heaven itself. The holy place is the present age and the most holy place is new age, the age of new creation.

Therefore, the piercing of Jesus’ flesh, tearing of the veil, the ripping open of the firmament, opened the doorway from this age to the next. Remember, Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10.9) We can enter the new age, the new creation, right now but only through the door, Jesus’ crucifixion.

But, at this time only the curtain before the most holy place has been torn away. The earthly tabernacle had a covering over the most holy place. The covering is still in place. Therefore, while there is access to the most holy place through the cross, the most holy place has not been fully revealed. So, we have an overlapping of the present age and the new age to come. We have the now and the not yet of the new creation, the kingdom of God.

However, we have the following prophecy in Isaiah 25.6-9.

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will walk take away from all earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'”

While Jesus’ body was pierced, opening up the way into the new creation, you can only enter it by the cross. However, one day the entire covering over the tabernacle will be removed. That is, one day everything that is blocking heaven from earth will be completely removed.

So, Revelation 21.1-4 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Christ is “heaven itself.” He is the new heaven and the new earth. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5.17) Even now, for those that believe, the old heaven and earth has passed away and the new heaven and earth has come.

Consider then these words of Jesus, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5.18)

The law is accomplished. It is done. For those that believe, the heaven and earth have passed away. For those that believe, you are no longer under the law, but you have God, through the Holy Spirit, dwelling with you.

But, one day the covering will be completely removed and the new heaven and earth will be fully revealed. The dwelling place of God will be with man. The new Jerusalem will come down from heaven.

“The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height equal.” (Revelation 21.16) The new Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place with men, that comes down from heaven when the covering over mankind is fully removed was a cube. And, so was the most holy place, the dwelling place of God with man, of the earthly tabernacle Moses built.

This then is more that could be said about the true tent.

But, even so, of these things I cannot now speak in detail.

What Is the Better Promise of Jesus’ Covenant?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 5-8

“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” (Hebrews 8.6)

A covenant is an agreement between two parties. The Greek word for covenant is diatheke. It properly means a disposition of property by a will.

Sometimes diatheke is translated will, as in the legal document that gets executed at someone’s death. So, Hebrews 9.16-17 says, “For where a will [diatheke] is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will [diatheke] takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.”

A covenant or a will involves an inheritance or a promise from the one who establishes the covenant to the inheritor. Both Moses and Jesus enacted covenants. And, both covenants had promises.

But, what made the promise of Jesus’ covenant better than the promise of Moses’ covenant?

Do you know what the promise of Moses’ covenant was?

“God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel:…I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3.15, 17)

The promise of Moses’ covenant was land – Canaan. This is why it is called the Promised Land. The land was said to be Israel’s inheritance for inheritance is what you receive from a covenant or a will. God could give the land to Israel because “the earth is the Lord’s,” according to Psalm 24.1 and many other scriptures.

Do you know what the promise of Jesus’ covenant is?

Not land.

Jesus did not die to enact his covenant so that God’s people could inherit a plot of land.

The promise of Jesus’ covenant is eternal life, God’s life.

“In him was life.” (John 1.4)

Eternal life was the “property” of Jesus that he dispose through his covenant, his will, at his death.

While inheritance in the Old Testament is almost always associated with land, inheritance in the New Testament is almost always associated with life.

Jesus is asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10.17)

Jesus says that those who have forsaken everything “will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19.29)

Paul writes about who will “inherit the kingdom of God.” But, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17.20-21)

Paul says he is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” Titus 1.2) Also, Paul says he is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1.1)

Upon his death, Jesus’ covenant promises an inheritance of eternal life. Eternal life is a much better promise than land.

Quoting from Jeremiah 31, the author of Hebrews says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8.10-12)

“For they shall all know me.” This is the promise of the covenant. But, to know God is eternal life, which is the promise of the covenant. In John 17.3, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”