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.

What Is Repentance toward God and Faith in Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 20-21

“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Acts 20:20-21

Paul is going to Jerusalem. He doesn’t know exactly what is going to happen to him there, but Paul does know that the Holy Spirit has testified to him repeatedly that imprisonment and affliction awaits him. Yet, this is not a deterrent to Paul.

Nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem, the ship Paul is on stops in Miletus. He calls for the elders of the church in Ephesus. Ephesus is where Paul had spent several years teaching and preaching. Ephesus seemed to be the base of Paul’s ministry. We could imagine that the elders of the church in Ephesus were some of Paul’s closest and most trusted advisors.

When Paul calls these elders to him, he recounts for them how he had lived with them from the first day he set foot in Asia. And, he tells them that this will be the last time they see him face to face. At the close of Paul’s speech we are told that the elders were sorrowful that they would not see him again.

It’s amazing how Paul’s life mirrored Jesus’ life.

In Luke, we read several times that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, knowing that the cross, his ultimate suffering, was before him.

In John, we read of Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Jesus tells the disciples he still has much to say to them, but it cannot be explained, nor would they understand it, that night. But, Jesus tells them it will be for their good.

So, as the end of Paul’s life was drawing near, he spoke of the same things that Jesus spoke of as the end of his life was drawing near.

What were the things Jesus spoke of?

What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?

“And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.’” (Mark 10:32-34)

Jesus spoke plainly that, as the Christ, he had to suffer and to rise from the dead.

After his resurrection, what did Jesus tell the disciples all the scriptures were about?

“And he 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.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Before his death, Jesus spoke one thing plainly to the disciples. After his resurrection, he spoke the same thing plainly to his disciples, showing them in all the scriptures where the plain thing was.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

Why was it necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead?

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke with you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ 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 the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Luke 24:44-47)

Why did Jesus speak plainly about the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead?

Because it is this one word that allows repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed to all nations.

Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?

“And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’” (Acts 17:2-3)

The Bereans were looking for that one word that Jesus, and now Paul, spoke – it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

What Was Paul Occupied With?

Paul’s entire life, his every action and his every word, was occupied by the very same word that Jesus spoke plainly. Paul was compelled to do what he did and say what he said because it was necessary that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all nations.

So, in Acts 20, near the end of Paul’s life, he tells us how he spoke this one word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead – so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all nations.

Paul said, “If only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

He said, “For I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)

Paul said, “And now I commend to God and the word of his grace.” (Acts 20:32)

Which are all different ways of saying, “How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public from house to house, and testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21)

The clear, concise, and overwhelming message of Jesus and Paul, the whole counsel of God, the gospel of God’s grace, is that it was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all nations.

This is everything that Jesus wants us to know in the scriptures.

This is everything that the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.

Jesus said the reason for this one word was repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

Paul said the reason was repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance is not changing our mind.

Repentance is changing our mind in a very specific way – toward God.

What does it mean to repent, change your mind, toward God?

Think about, meditate on, the first part of the one word that Jesus spoke plainly.

It was necessary that the Christ had to suffer.

It’s worth repeating.

It was necessary that the Christ had to suffer.

Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. He is God.

It was necessary that God suffer.

Why was that necessary?

Because since the foundation of the world, from Adam on, mankind believe that God caused suffering.

Just look at all the suffering the Bible claims came from the hands of God.

According to the Bible,

  • God drowned all flesh in a global flood
  • God sent plagues of utter destruction on a nation and then drowned its leader and army in the sea
  • God caused fire to come out of the tabernacle and burn men alive
  • God opened the earth so that it swallowed thousands of people, including women and children, alive
  • God practiced genocide, commanding his people to devote seven nations to complete and total destruction
  • God caused infants to be torn to pieces
  • God  caused women to be raped
  • God punished Israel by sending other nations to defeat them in war and bring them into captivity
  • and on, and on, and on.

In other words, mankind believe that God was responsible for everything. Yes, God was responsible for the good that happened to mankind. But, he also caused the evil that happened to mankind too.

That Christ had to suffer so that mankind would know that God did not do these things.

The Christ suffered and died the most shameful death known to man on the cross to show that

  • God suffers instead of causing suffering
  • God is rejected instead of the one rejecting people from his presence
  • God is mocked and ridiculed instead of the one mocking and ridiculing
  • God is pierced through instead of the one doing the piercing
  • God is the one who’s body is torn instead of the one tearing bodies apart
  • God is killed, murdered, and executed instead of the one killing, murdering, executing, and taking life of mankind whenever he feels like it
  • God lays down his life and does not fight or war instead of fighting, warring and committing genocide

We repent, change our minds, so that we move toward God, so that we see God for who he really is.

That is why Jesus the Christ had to suffer. There was no other way to show us how wrong our view of God was and still is.

God is good and only good.

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

“God is love…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:16, 18)

“If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater…And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:9, 11)

But, the one word that Jesus, and Paul, spoke plainly does not end with Christ’s suffering.

It was necessary that the Christ rise from the dead.

It’s worth repeating.

It was necessary that the Christ rise from the dead.

Why was that necessary?

Jesus, the Christ who had to suffer and die, could not, would not, be defeated.

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24)

In other words, the grave could not hold Jesus down.

“I am…the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” (Revelation 1:17, 18)

Jesus had to rise from the dead “because of his [God’s] own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

It was necessary that Jesus rise from the dead so “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.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

It was necessary that Jesus rise from the dead to defeat death, which we have feared and been enslaved to from the beginning, so that, through the grace of God, he could bring us life and immortality. God gave us this in Christ – the one who needed to suffer and rise from the dead – before the ages began.

The most dramatic and significant way God could express his life defeating death was for Jesus, the Christ, who had to suffer, in the midst of his most extreme suffering on the cross, when all the wrong thoughts of God throughout the history of man converged on a single person at a single point in time, to say,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Had Jesus remained in the grave, not rising from the dead, would God had forgiven us?

Jesus had to rise from the dead to confirm that God truly does forgive our sins, all our wrong thoughts about him.

Knowing that we are forgiven by God for the wrong we have done to him is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance toward God and faith in Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is not about adultery, strife, stealing, lying, coveting, mean words, etc.

Mankind knows those are wrong. The Jews knew those were always wrong from the law of Moses. And, Paul writes in Romans that even Gentiles have a law unto themselves and know these things are wrong. Therefore, no one needs to change their mind that these things are wrong. We’ve always known that.

But, we didn’t know what God was like.

In fact, no one had ever seen God.

Until Jesus.

Jesus was God in the flesh.

Jesus was God dwelling among us.

If we see Jesus, then we see God.

So, when we see that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and rise from the dead, then we see God

God suffers and forgives.

This is the good news.

This is the gospel.

This is God’s grace.

This is the one word that Jesus spoke plainly.

Jesus spoke it, and Paul testified about it to Jews and Greeks, to proclaim repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins.

What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 10-11

“And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.'” – Mark 10:32-34

This is the third and final time in Mark that Jesus tells the twelve disciples that he was going to be delivered to his death and rise three days later. Mark writes something very interesting the first time Jesus speaks about his death and resurrection.

Mark 8:31-32 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”

“And he said this plainly.”

The Greek word for plainly is parresia. It means boldness, confidence, plainly, frankness. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament parresia means freedom of speech, candor, boldness, public speech, categorical affirmation. It was originally a political term, which was the sign of one’s political liberty. The very act of speaking with such freedom implied the truth of what was being said. But, speaking with such freedom exposed the speaker to significant danger.

So, when Jesus spoke of his death, he spoke boldly, confidently, plainly, frankly. He did not mince words. Jesus was clear. He was not trying to obfuscate what he was saying or making it hard to understand.

His suffering, death, and resurrection is the one thing that Jesus spoke about plainly.

Mark 4:2 says, “And he was teaching them many things in parables.”

Mark 4:33-34 says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

Why would Jesus speak so plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection with his disciples but only speak in parables to everyone else?

Mark 4:11 says, “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.”

Jesus gave the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God to his disciples. He spoke to them plainly about it. The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God is that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected three days.

Why did Jesus tell his disciples this one thing – his suffering, death, and resurrection – so plainly?

I believe because it is so antithetical, so opposite, to the way we naturally think.

Mark 8:29 says, “And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.'”

It was immediately after Peter’s confession, on behalf of all the disciples, that Jesus began to teach that he would, be killed, and rise three days later. But, even though Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, this plain teaching of Jesus made no sense to him.

Mark 8:32 says, “And he [Jesus] said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

The one thing Jesus taught plainly, Peter said no way.

Jesus taught about his suffering, death, and resurrection a second time in Mark 9:30-32. Immediately after the second teaching, Jesus and the disciples journeyed to Capernaum. Along the way, the disciples argued, not about Jesus’ teaching that he would suffer, die, and rise even though they did not understand it, but about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. So, Jesus told them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The third and final time Jesus teaches that he will suffer, die, and rise, James and John ask Jesus that he would grant them to sit on his right and left hand. Yet, again when Jesus teaches plainly the secret of the kingdom – that the Christ, the Messiah, the king would suffer, die and rise – the disciples are still trying to be great according to the way of the world. They want to rule.

The other disciples became indignant at James and John. They are still arguing about who is going to be the greatest. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus responded, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus had to speak the secret, the mystery of the kingdom, plainly to his disciples because it was completely the opposite of everything they thought and believed about the way the world worked, who the Christ was, and what he would do.

Not only did Jesus speak plainly that he would suffer, die, and rise, but he acted plainly. In John 16:25, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly [parresia] about the Father.”

Jesus would tell them plainly about the Father in the hour. The hour is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. It was on the cross that Jesus’ actions would plainly reveal the Father just as he had spoken plainly to the disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection.

Colossians 2:13-15 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open [parresia] shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The crucifixion of Jesus was God disarming the rulers and authorities, those that had all mankind bound in sin and death. The crucifixion was Jesus plainly showing us who God is.

Did you catch the significance of this plain speaking about the Father in Colossians 2:13-15?

“Having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Jesus taught his suffering, death, and resurrection clearly because he wanted to boldly, confidently, frankly tell us that God forgives us.

Why did Jesus speak clearly to the disciples the secret of the kingdom yet in parables to those outside?

Mark 4:11-12 says, “and he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'”

Here Jesus links his plain speaking as opposed to his teaching in parables with forgiveness.

When Jesus was on the cross, when his actions most plainly told us about the Father, what did Jesus say?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom is so foreign to us that despite Jesus’ plain teaching and acting out his teaching on the cross, the disciples still did not understand.

Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he 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.

So, Luke 24:44-48 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for [the correct word is and] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Why did Jesus speak plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection?

So, that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed.

How did you Jesus start his ministry?

Jesus first words in the gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance is the first message of the kingdom.

How did Jesus end his ministry?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

Forgiveness is the last word of Jesus’ ministry.

So, Jesus told the disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the whole world. This was the evidence that the disciples had been transformed. See yesterday’s post.

Proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to the world is just what the disciples did. And, they did it plainly.

In the first sermon, Peter preached “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raise him up.” Peter preached that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected. Peter did not preach, “Believe in Jesus, get saved, or you are going to burn in hell forever.”

The disciples never once preached hell. They preached the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. They preached the gospel.

In acts 2:29, 32, Peter said, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence [parresia] about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb us with us to this day…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.”

When confidently, boldly, plainly taught the secret of the kingdom, the gospel, those who were gathered were cut to heart and asked what should they do?

“And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

The disciples knew the secret of the kingdom, the gospel – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. Therefore, they proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all.

Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness [parresia] of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:29-31 says, “‘And now, Lord, look upon their hearts and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with boldness [parresia], while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which there gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness [parresia].”

Acts 28:30-31 says, “He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness [parresia] and without hindrance.”

To speak the word with boldness is not

  • proclaiming the ten commandments
  • quoting the law and the prophets literally
  • telling people to obey rules and moral commands
  • preaching get saved or burn in hell forever.

To speak the word, the word of God, Jesus Christ with boldness is to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, as the Christ, the true king of the world, Jesus became the least of all, a servant, a slave. He willingly suffered and was crucified at your hands. But, God raised Jesus up. Jesus did this so that you could repent of your violence, your desire for vengeance, and receive God’s forgiveness for your sins and proclaim God’s forgiveness to the world.

This is what Jesus spoke plainly.

What Are You Boasting In?

Jeremiah chapters 4-9 are a devastating word against Israel and Judah. Jeremiah repeats the same themes, the same accusations, over and over.

First, Israel and Judah were rebellious. They rejected God’s authority, God’s law, God’s commands, and did what was right in their own eyes.

Second, they refused to repent. Despite God sending prophet after prophet, warning after warning, Israel and Judah continued in their rebellion.

Third, they worshiped idols, false gods, the Baals, and, ultimately, Satan himself. Why do I say they worshiped Satan? Well, he is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. Jeremiah’s prophecy from the Lord continually says that Israel and Judah were liars and deceivers. And, they were a people of wickedness, evil, injustice, violence – in other words murder. This is the same accusation that Jesus said of them in John 8.

Fourth, wrath would be poured out on them. But, this wrath would be of their own doing. It was the direct result of their own wicked actions. They were going to reap what they had sown. Yes, God was going to allow it and, in that sense, it was his wrath. But, it seems to me that this is more like God stepping out of the way, no longer striving with man, and allowing man to experience the consequences of what they have done.

Fifth, God says this wrath will not come to a full end. It will not end in complete destruction. God is allowing it to go to whatever point is necessary to bring Israel and Judah to repentance. He will chasten them to whatever length necessary to stop their rebellion.

Near the very end of chapter nine God says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Israel and Judah, really all men, boast in wisdom, power, and riches. Do we not all seek these things? Is this not what drives the world, governments, corporations, institutions, politics, etc.? Because of their rebellion, these are what Israel and Judah were boasting in. Because of our rebellion, these are things we still boast in today.

But, God says that is not him. The only thing his people boast in is him.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 10:17

“So that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” – 1 Corinthians 1:31

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to Lord.” – Galatians 6:14

“If I boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 11:30

The natural man boasts in wisdom, power, and riches. But, God says no. The man who has been crucified with Christ sees that God replaces boasting in wisdom with the practice of steadfast love, boasting in power with justice, and boasting in riches with righteousness. Steadfast love, justice, and righteousness – these are the things God delights in.

The Unclean Passover

2 Chronicles 29-30 tells us about the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. In his first year and in the first month of his reign, so the first thing he did, was to open the doors of the temple. He called the priests and Levites to consecrate themselves. Hezekiah had them clean out all the filth from the temple. He was calling them back to the worship of God.

But, this took long enough that they missed the time to keep the Passover, which had not been fully kept since the time of Solomon. So, Hezekiah had them keep the Passover in the second month. He sent to all Israel that they should come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. This was a call to repentance. Many mocked, scorned, and laughed at the people who brought the call from Hezekiah. But many came.

However, the many that came had not cleansed themselves. Yet, they ate the Passover anyway. Numbers makes a big deal about distinguishing between the clean and the unclean and not allowing anything unclean into the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God. So, this is quite shocking that they ate the Passover unclean. But, Hezekiah prayed, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets their heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.”

What was God’s response? “And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”

We get so caught up rules and in the right way to do something. But, this speaks to me that setting our heart to seek God that we might know him is more important than anything else. Though unclean, these people heard Hezekiah’s call to repentance and came to God.

Jesus knows our uncleanness. But, he too has called us to repentance. He says, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He says, “Come to me all who are weary, burdened, and thirsty.” When we set our heart to seek Jesus, despite our uncleanness, he hears our cry and heals us. And, it’s then that Jesus shows us the clean way, the right way.

So, the priests and Levites, the people of God, consecrated or cleansed themselves and did the same to the temple. But, they didn’t demand this of the others that came, that heard the call of repentance. Our way is to get cleaned up, follow the rules, worship God, then demand that of others. But, God says let those come who have set their hearts on him and seek him. Then, he heal will and cleanse them.

Hearing then Repentance then Sight

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Proverbs 21:2

We take an action, any action, because it seems like the right thing to do from our perspective. Our actions and our words are driven by what is in our heart. The problem is that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“…but the Lord weighs the heart.” Only the Lord knows what is in our heart. Only he knows what is driving our decisions. And, only he knows what must be changed within our heart so that it is pure and our actions and our words become just.

Therefore, you must “apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12) Notice that our ways seem right to our eyes, but our ears are to be used to attain knowledge.

“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even you.” – Proverbs 22:17-19

Again, we read that it is the ear that must be inclined, or tuned, to hear the words of the wise. The ear that hears is linked with the heart that is applied to knowledge, to wisdom, to understanding. Why is this the case? “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Our eyes deceive. We think we know what is right based on what we see. But, it is through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, that we receive faith, that we trust God to lead us and order every step we take. Once we have heard the Lord, allow him to direct us, then we can see clearly. Read the scriptures carefully and you will see this pattern: hearing, then repentance, then sight.

True repentance is an act of humility. It is admission that I don’t know what is right. It’s an admission that my heart is wicked and that I don’t know what to do. And, as a result of that admission, I’m going to turn to God and let him direct everything that I do. I’m going to let him lead instead of trying to do what I think is right.

This is why our ears have to be constantly listening for Jesus (through reading the Bible or listening to preaching with the Holy Spirit teaching us). Then God’s words will be on our heart. And, what is in the heart will be on our lips to direct us, lead us, and keep us from lies that lead in the wrong direction. Because, there are many times we don’t have a Bible handy or have time to look up a verse to see what God says in a particular situation. No, we need the Living Word, Jesus Christ, within our hearts so that moment by moment he can direct us.

What is the result of the humility displayed in repentance? “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

However, this isn’t riches and honor according to the world. Ephesians 2:4-7 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” God is giving us the riches of Christ, which is every spiritual blessing according to Ephesians 1. And, he has given us a place of honor, to be seated with Christ who is on the throne in heaven. That is life.

Are You Foolish or Wise? Read Proverbs 1

Solomon is writing Proverbs so that his son can have wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and instruction. In Proverbs 1:7, Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is the contrast that is explored for the rest of the book – the one that fears the Lord, or the wise man, versus the one who despises wisdom, or the foolish man.

In Proverbs 1:11-19 we read the first description of those that despise wisdom, the foolish, the sinners. These men “lie in wait for blood,” “ambush the innocent without reason,” they swallow the innocent alive like Sheol, or hell, and they do it all to “find precious goods” and “fill our houses with plunder.” These men run to evil to shed blood. This is a description of all those that have rebelled against God and Jesus. They want to rid the world of God so that they can be the rulers of the earth. They are willing to kill God’s son, “the innocent,” to achieve their goal when God’s son is sent to the earth.

But, Solomon tells us of the end of these sinners, the rebellious, in verses 18-19, “But these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” Just like is says in the Psalms and elsewhere, the wicked are caught in their own trap, their own devices, their own violence. And, it takes away their life.

But, wisdom is calling out. 1 Corinthians 1:24 says that Christ is the power and wisdom of God. Look what wisdom, Jesus, says in Proverbs 1:20-33. So, Jesus is calling out to all in the market and the noisy streets. His voice is amongst all those other voices in the world that are trying to take us from him. Jesus asks how long we “love being simple”, continue scoffing in delight at our scoffing, and hate knowledge. He bids us to turn at his reproof. That is, Jesus is calling us to repent from walking in the way of sinners mentioned above. He is calling us to turn from our rebellion, our lives of independence, to become dependent on God alone.

But, if we don’t repent, if we don’t turn to God, and if we continue to hate knowledge, despise Jesus and his wisdom, then “They shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.” All of the wicked we have conceived and planned will overtake those of us that continue to reject Jesus.

However, those who hear wisdom’s call, the call of Jesus to repent, will dwell securely with him and have peace and rest.

Draw Near to God to Hear Words of Peace

Psalm 85:8-9 –“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.”

The psalmist starts by acknowledging that God has restored his people, forgiven their iniquity, covered their sin, and withdrew his wrath from them. But, it appears that his people once again find themselves in trouble and facing God’s wrath once again. The psalmist asks God to put away his indignation. Will God be angry with his people forever. Is it God’s wrath? Or, is it those living by the sword dying by the sword? Is it our own evil coming back upon us?

This is where we get the quote above. When God’s people draw near to him, they hear the words of peace that he speaks. He speaks these words of peace to his people, to his saints. The world doesn’t hear these words of peace. Are you hearing God speaking peace (not just the absence of war, but safety, security, and provision for all) or are you hearing God speak vengeance, vindictiveness, and retribution?

I’ve been meditating on the repentant turning away from lies and murder, the things that mark Satan’s kingdom. And, here the psalmist says that God’s people cannot return to their folly. God’s people cannot return to their old, empty ways of lying and violence, evil, wickedness, and murder. His salvation is near to those who fear him. His salvation is near brings to mind Jesus’ statement that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the kingdom of God is near. Instead of lies and murder, his kingdom is marked by truth and love, peace, joy, and righteousness. When God’s people enter into this, glory dwells in the land.

Your View of God Is a Reflection of You

A passage in Psalm 18 really stood out to me this morning.

“With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.”

The conception among many Christians is that God is angry with us. If we don’t repent, then He pour out His wrath on us. I’m not saying this is completely wrong, but I believe God has been leading me to go deeper than I, and many other Christians, have in the past on this idea.

Yes, we have sinned horribly against God. We denied him. We believed the lie about Him, that He was keeping something from us. We took the lie so far that when He came to earth as Jesus, one who was perfect and Isaiah 53:9 says did no violence and no deceit was found in his mouth, we crucified Him. Our sin murdered Jesus. Our corrupt, wicked, evil system, which is really Satan’s kingdom, murdered God. For that we must repent if we want to enter the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, eternal life. This was the thrust of Jesus’ entire ministry for the first words of His ministry were “The kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent and believe the gospel.”

But, for those that don’t repent, is it God’s wrath that will be poured out on them? Or, is it the lies and the violence of the unrepentant themselves that will come back on their own head? Throughout the Bible we see that the pit the wicked dug they themselves fall into. Or, the snare that evil people set they get caught in themselves. And, in the depictions of Satan (for example, Goliath and Haman), he is almost always killed with his own weapon.

The repentant have become merciful, blameless, and purified. And, to the repentant God shows Himself as such. But, to the unrepentant, the crooked, God makes Himself seem tortuous. It seems to them like God is vengeful, spiteful, and vindictive, pouring His wrath out on them. However, in reality it is their own lies and violence that is coming back on their own heads (the Psalms often speak of this idea).

Satan’s kingdom is marked by two things – lies and murder (John 8). Satan’s character is to lie, therefore he speaks lies and is the father of lies. All those in his kingdom, the unrepentant, do the same because Satan is their father. Satan is also a murderer from the beginning, having spiritually murdered Adam and Eve. All those in his kingdom, the unrepentant, do the same because Satan is their father. In Satan’s kingdom, the lies and murder (as well as all evil, violence, and wickedness) will escalate until that kingdom is completely burned down as it reaps what it sows.

Again, remember Isaiah 53:9. “And they made his [Jesus] grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Jesus didn’t do those things because they are not in His, or God’s, nature. This is why Jesus could say in John 14:30-31, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world [Satan] approaches. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

So, while God permits this, is the wrath His? Or, is he simply letting the unrepentant reap what they have sown? Is God rewarding the unrepentant according to their deeds?

Could it even be “God’s wrath” that will be poured out? Based on what we see in Jesus, who is the radiance and glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1), wouldn’t this be God returning evil for evil? Remember Jesus did no violence and spoke no lies. He does not operate anything at all like the world, the system, that we see around us. Rather, Jesus, God, returns evil with good.

All this speaks to why Jesus says that we must repent to enter His kingdom. There must be a complete change of mind and attitude, seeing the earth and fellow men and women in a completely different light, so that we can be and do differently than we ever have before.

Just something I’ve been meditating on for a while now.

Jesus Daily Meets My Needs through Scripture

Today, I’m speaking at church that is having an open air meeting for the community and a BBQ afterwards. The church/community is in the projects on the west side of the city.

I had been praying about what to speak about. First, I thought about a message that I had put together on repentance. But, I didn’t think I should do that the first time I was with this group. It was pretty hard hitting and I wanted to do something more uplifting, exciting. So, I decided against the first impression God gave me.

Second, I thought I repeat a message I gave earlier in the year in the Philippines. It was called “Christ, Our Interpreter.” The Lord has had that idea heavy on my heart for more than a year. I figured this would be better since no one knew who I was. I think my real thought was that it would make me more likable.

But, yesterday I talked with the pastor of the church and he informed of the open air meeting. He said when they do that type of meeting he likes to make sure that the gospel is presented. Well, the Lord settled it right there. I was to give the message on repentance. I should have listened to the Lord the first time around.

Which brings me to today’s reading. Many of the psalms that were in the reading are in my message, fitting perfectly with what I’m speaking about. Once again the Lord has provided through His Word, Jesus, just what I need in the scripture for that day. Over and over, Jesus confirms things for me through the scripture.