Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 2

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Reading the Bible, you can’t help but notice all the times God invaded our time and space to reveal Himself. It’s not that people were looking for Him; they weren’t. God, in His grace, chose from time to time to disclose Himself to them. In fact, to carry this thought out even further, we could say that the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the divinely inspired story of God’s self-revelation to human beings.  Down through the centuries, this self-revelation of God had taken many and various forms. This was something the author of the letter to some Hebrews noticed and appreciated:

Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans. (Hebrews 1:1 TLB)

God is all-powerful, and therefore He, if He chooses to, can reveal Himself to whomever He wants. But God is also all-loving, and therefore we may expect God to reveal Himself to us. The Bible, as a whole, claims to contain a record of those revelations, but it also claims to be a complete revelation of God in and of itself.

God’s revelation to man historically

The first three words of Hebrews 1:1 are Polumeros kai polutropos, – “at various times and in various ways.” Those are three very important Greek words; they tell us how God operated in terms of His historic self-revelation. He did not reveal all of Himself at any one time to any single person. Indeed, over centuries, our Lord revealed little bits and pieces of Himself through many different means, including prophets, events in nature, individuals, and history itself.

The very first means was the spoken word: God simply spoke. The Greek word, lalesas, suggests a long process of communication that took place over long period of time. This speaking was done, for the most part, through the prophets. That’s an interesting word, “prophet,” which literally means, “to speak in front of or for someone else.” The Old Testament prophet functioned like God’s ambassador. While we think of prophets as strange guys with migraines who foretell the future, that’s not the necessarily the Biblical idea of the prophet. The job of the Biblical prophet was not so much foretelling as forthtelling. They explained to their audience what was going on and why, or why a certain event happened or was going to happen. Through these people, God spoke, telling people about Himself and His ways.  However, all that changed at a fixed point in time –

But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is. (Hebrews 1:2 TLB)

Now, in “the last days,” God is done with speaking little by little through prophets. It’s not that there was anything wrong with them, but the age of the prophet had ended when God began to speak to us through His Son. The prophets were faithful to the end; they boldly declared what God wanted them to say, many of them died on account of their messages. But with the dawn of “the last days,” the Messianic Age, their job ended. Now God would speak through the Son – God incarnate. He was God’s final prophet, superior in every way to any other prophet because He didn’t interpret God’s Word to man, Jesus Christ IS God’s Word to man!

E.A. Litton, in his book on theology, wrote:

In the person of Christ all previous manifestations of God are summed as in an epitome; the scattered rays are here concentrated in focus; and for this reason we can expect no further, or more complete, revelation of God.

The eternal Word, John 1:1, 2

No other book in the Bible begins so overtly theological as the Gospel of John does. The most important thing John wanted his readers to understand was that “the Word was God.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 NIV)

As we’ll discover a few verses in, the Word is John’s nickname for Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In this verse, we have no less than three affirmations of Christian doctrine –

“In the beginning was the Word.” This single phrase tells us that the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, existed before creation. So before there was any material universe in existence; before God spoke anything into being, there was the Son of God.

“The Word was with God.” The Word, the Son of God, has a personal relationship with God. The Word, the Son, is not an idea, but a real, literal divine Person who had and has an ongoing relationship with God, the Father.

“The Word was God.” The Word, the Son, is truly God. He is not another God, or a second God, or a junior God. The Word is God. John brilliantly equates the Word with God, yet makes sure we understand the Word is, at the same time, distinct from God the Father.

You may wonder why John referred to Jesus as “the Word.” You’re not alone. The Greek word used is logos, which means simply “word.” No help there. Later on, the Word became flesh, but in the beginning, He was the Word. It may well be that John chose to use the word logos because a “word” is an expression of what’s on a person’s mind. It’s the way we communicate with each other. In this sense, the Son is the way God chose to reveal His will to man.

The Word, John 1:3 – 5

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3 – 5 NIV)

In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ as the living Word of God, brings life into the world. His life serves as a “light” for all people. It leads people. His life shows man everything he needs to know live a better life in this world and in the next. But Christ not only lived a life as a Man, He offers life to man. The life Christ offers man is not temporal; it’s eternal. In every way you can think of, the life Christ wants to give every human being is superior in every way to the life they are living now.  If we take a closer look at these three verses, we notice that in all, John makes four stunning declarations about the living Word.

The Word and the world, verse 3

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

We are told by John in no uncertain terms that the Word was responsible for the creation of the material universe. That last clause, “without him nothing was made that has been made” seems a little redundant, but at the time the Gospel was written, there were false doctrines floating around that taught some things were created by other creative agents. Not so, says our letter writer. Nothing – nothing – you can see, feel, experience, was created by any power other than the Word.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6 NIV)

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15 – 17 NIV)

The Word, life, and light, verse 4a

In him was life, and that life was the light…

In this verse, the Word – the Son of God – is pictured as the Source of all life. We can understand that in terms of biological life, but there is more to human beings than just that. John liked to use the Greek word zoe for “life.” The more common Greek word, bios, he never uses. This is by design. Zoe refers to “life from above,” “eternal life,” and “abundant life,” not just physical life. It has more to do with the quality of life than merely being alive. Jesus Christ is the Source of this higher quality of life. Without Jesus, a person is just living – he’s existing. But with Christ in your life comes His life – a higher quality life, a better life, a life full of blessings and possibilities. That’s why John likens Christ’s life to the idea of light. Light is better than darkness for all kinds of reasons. Christ’s life is better than anybody’s life for all kinds of reasons.

The Word and men, verse 4b

…of all mankind.

The Word, Jesus Christ, is God’s final, most personal revelation to men – all men. He is God’s most personal revelation to us because He comes directly from God without any middle man. And His revelation is for all people, not just the Jews or a certain group of people. Now, not all people will benefit from this revelation, but anybody who cares to look will see it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9 NIV)

The Word and the darkness, verse 5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Man without Christ is sitting around in the darkness of sin. The living Word came into our dark word as a light that is seen dispelling that darkness. This idea of light and dark figures prominently in John’s Gospel. There is a struggle between light and dark, but the light is always victorious. For example, Jesus gave sight – light – to a blind man. Jesus brought His friend Lazarus out of the darkness of death. The light of Christ’s life is always victorious, except in once tragic case: Judas Iscariot. But even then, it was Judas who willingly chose to leave the light and go back into the dark.

As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:30 NIV)

Sadly, many people prefer the darkness. Yet even today, the light of the Word of God is still shining brightly for all would take the time to notice. But the darkness is always trying to “overcome” it. This phrase is fraught with translation difficulties. Is that what John was trying to say? Even the translators of the NIV aren’t sure. Look –

NIV84: …the darkness has not understood it.
NIV2011: …the darkness has not overcome it.

The underlying Greek verb is katelaben, and in all fairness, it can go both ways. The darkness – the unredeemed mind – cannot understand the Gospel. Sinners just can’t grasp the truth of God’s eternal Word. Yet by God’s grace, they can understand just enough to make a decision to accept the Word or not. But the word can also mean “overcome,” in the sense that sin cannot overcome the Word or stop the Word for accomplishing its purposes in the world.

William Hendriksen in his excellent commentary on John suggests a third possibility that seems to make the most sense:

…the darkness has not appropriated it.

That goes along with the NIV84’s “not understood” translation, but puts it in a stronger sense. It’s not that the darkness couldn’t grasp the Word, it’s that the darkness chose not to accept what the Word was saying. In other words, in an act of the will, sinners sitting in the darkness prefer to stay there by not choosing to move into the light.  It’s all on us to heed the call of the light or not to.

 

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