Posts Tagged 'Second Coming'



The Three Appearances of Jesus, 3

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The second coming of Christ to the earth, which is the third appearance of Jesus, begins with the rapture of the saints (the “blessed hope” of the Church), followed by the visible, literal, and physical return of Christ to the earth with His saints, where He will rule and reign for one thousand years.  This period is known as the Millennium and, among other things, will bring national Israel into God’s family and establish universal peace.

That paragraph, which large chunks of the Church believes, has caused a lot of theological violence over the years thanks in part to the adherence of certain denominations to something called The Westminster Confession of Faith which is a wonderful document written by men in an attempt to systematize and categorize the elements of Christian doctrine.  It’s a worthy attempt at this but, as worthy as this document is, it is necessarily flawed as it written by man.  The WCF (as it is known) devotes a scant sentence or two to the doctrine of the Second Coming.   Since the document fails to mention the rapture, the Millennium, and other Biblical elements of eschatology, churches that wholly embrace it  will have nothing to do with them.  In fact, sometimes, they are downright nasty in their opposition to them.  For some unfathomable reason  they feel positively threatened by people who hold to this orthodox, historical version of Eschatology.

Before going any further, let me assure those who may hold to a different view of Eschatology that I am not your enemy!  I have no war with you, nor do I think any less of you.  I think the WCF is an awesome document.  However, when it comes to doctrine and theology, I am of the opinion that it is better to go to the best document available:  the Holy Bible.  It’s helpful to know what others think the Bible says, but it’s essential to know what Bible says.  No Christian needs the Westminster Divines, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, me or any other great or near-great Christians to tell them what and how to think.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16  NIV) 

With that out of the way, let’s discuss an unnecessarily hotly disputed point.  Will our Lord return before or after the Millennium?  There are those who say He will return before the Millennium; that He is One who establishes the Millennium.  Others teach that Jesus will return after the Millennium.  Still others – hold on to your seats – teach that we are in the Millennium right now.  The Bible contains the truth, and that’s what we need to know.  According to the Good Book, what will the world look like when Christ returns?  What will be the condition of man at the moment He returns?

The testimony of the prophets, Daniel 12:1, 2 

“At that time Michael, the mighty angelic prince who stands guard over your nation, will stand up and fight for you in heaven against satanic forces, and there will be a time of anguish for the Jews greater than any previous suffering in Jewish history. And yet every one of your people whose names are written in the Book will endure it.  And many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  (TLB)

These two verses seem to put to death the notion that we are in the Millennium right now.  This is what society will look like at the tail end of the Great Tribulation, just before the Jesus returns.  We know this because Jesus used language just like this to describe world conditions just prior to His return.  But here, Daniel’s vision concerns his people, the Jews.  It will be a dark time for them “at that time,” a phrase that designates the end of the end times.  It will be a time of unparalleled anguish and suffering.   Obviously there will be no utopia on earth.

What the Gospels say

The Second Coming of Jesus will be preceded by a time of terrible distress on earth that will touch both Jew and Gentile.

Then there will be strange events in the skies—warnings, evil omens and portents in the sun, moon and stars; and down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, for the stability of the very heavens will be broken up.  Then the peoples of the earth shall see me, the Messiah, coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  (Luke 21:25–27  TLB) 

The kingdom of God, which is by definition “God’s rule and reign,” is here now but will be consummated and fully established at our Lord’s second coming.  To look at the what the world is like now,  it’s hard to imagine that the Lord “ruling and reigning!”  But He is.  Matthew 13 gives us a realistic view of the pathetic state of the kingdom of God as it is constituted right now.  It will be even worse just before Christ returns.

Let both grow together until the harvest, and I will tell the reapers to sort out the thistles and burn them, and put the wheat in the barn.  (Matthew 13:30  TLB) 

That’s the tail-end of a parable which tells of a farmer’s wheat field that has been infested with weeds.  The workers wanted to go out and pull all the weeds but the owner of the field, God, told His workers to hold off.  Pulling weeds – judging between saint and sinner – is not the job of the workers.  The point of that parable is that in the kingdom now are many who don’t belong here.  Just look at the state of the Christian church today.  It’s hard to know who the players are without a program!

When I return the world will be as indifferent to the things of God as the people were in Noah’s day.  They ate and drank and married—everything just as usual right up to the day when Noah went into the ark and the Flood came and destroyed them all.  And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot: people went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building—until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and brimstone rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the hour of my return.  (Luke 17:26 – 30  TLB) 

The key words in what Jesus said are:  “Noah’s day” and “days of Lot.”  In case you forgot, neither of those days were particularly good days!  Sin was rampant.  In fact, man had deteriorated to such a state that God had no choice but to execute a devastating judgment.  In the case of Noah’s day, all life on earth was destroyed, save for the life aboard the ark.  In Lot’s day, the sinful inhabitants of a whole valley were killed.

Yes, the world was at its worst during the days of Noah and Lot.  No, things will not get better and better before the Lord returns.  It’s clear things will get worse and worse.

“But the question is: When I, the Messiah, return, how many will I find who have faith and are praying?”  (Luke 18:9  TLB) 

That’s a rhetorical question Jesus asked.  The self-evident answer is “None.”  In other words, faith will be in very short supply when Jesus comes back.

What the letters say 

It’s not only Jesus who talked about His second coming.  Paul did.  Here’s a sampling:

But the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some in the church will turn away from Christ and become eager followers of teachers with devil-inspired ideas.  These teachers will tell lies with straight faces and do it so often that their consciences won’t even bother them.  (1 Timothy 4:1, 2  TLB) 

There has always been false teaching in the church, but it’s rampant today.  But then you can’t have false teachers in the church without eager listeners and followers in the pews.  Today’s Christian is so Biblically illiterate, it’s a sad testimony to members of my profession.  Today’s Christian will believe just anything!  They have no discernment and no understanding of or even desire to understand deeper spiritual things.  They don’t know what they don’t know.  They have itchy ears and will follow anybody whose teaching makes them feel good.

For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.  They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at those who try to be good. They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God.  They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.  (2 Timothy 3:2 – 5  TLB) 

That’s not an editorial from “Christianity Today!”  It IS Christianity today, as seen from a vantage point of some 2,000 years ago.  Jesus once said that His church would prevail; that even the gates of Hell wouldn’t stand against it.  He was right; Hell won’t wreck the church because church members are doing a good job of that on their own.

First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will come scoffers who will do every wrong they can think of and laugh at the truth.  This will be their line of argument: “So Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? He’ll never come! Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly as it was since the first day of creation.”  (2 Peter 3:3, 4  TLB) 

When there is no respect for the teachings of Scripture or the institutions of faith, people stop taking the doctrines of faith seriously.  Naturally we see this occurring in the world all the time; that shouldn’t surprise us at all.  But we are starting to see it happening in the church.  Bible teachers and pastors making fun of those of us who take Bible prophecy seriously; questioning the intelligence of their fellows who are doing exactly what the Bibles admonishes Christians to do:  watch and pray.

Once again, I ask the question: Why is knowing this important?  A lot of Christians think it isn’t.  They think it’s a foolish waste of time talking about future events that they don’t even think will happen.  And even if they are going happen in the future, what of it?  How does what will happen effect us in the here and now?  Don’t we have enough trouble today?

What we’ve been looking at today is what theologians call “the Tribulation.”  It will be period of seven years preceding the Second Coming.  It’s important to know about this time of God’s wrath because the Bible has a lot to say about it.  To dismiss the Tribulation is to dismiss large portions of the Old Testament, including whole books.  It is to dismiss the Word of the Lord to His people.  It is to dismiss significant teachings of Jesus – the Olivet Discourse – and most of the book of Revelation.  Understanding the Tribulation is to understand why “the Gospel of the kingdom” is so important and even what it is.  To dismiss the Tribulation is to dismiss God’s people, the Jews.  God’s purpose for Israel as far as the Tribulation goes is to bring about their conversion so that they may finally receive the promised blessings of prophecies dating back to Abraham.

But not only is the Tribulation vital to the future of Israel, it also demonstrates that God knows what’s going on today.  God will be judging the nations during this seven year period.  They will be judged because of their ungodliness.  This is not unimportant.  Just look around at what the nations of the world are doing:  killing innocent people; oppressing others; stealing wealth they’re not entitled to; passing laws robbing their own citizens of freedom, religious and otherwise.  They have to be punished; somebody has to hold them accountable for their atrocious actions.  God can’t give these nations a pass, and He won’t!

This is why knowing what will happen is so important.  God’s very character is at stake.  Without these seven years, God comes off looking uninformed, uncaring, uninvolved and disinterested in the world He created and the people He loves.

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Daniel: The End of the Dream

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Daniel 7

 

That was the end of the dream.  (Daniel 7:28a  TLB)

The historical section of the book of Daniel ended with the last verse of chapter 6.  Now, Daniel begins the second part of his book which contains four prophetic visions which focus on the destiny of Israel in the world among Gentile nations.  Chapter 7 parallels chapter 2, as both chapters put forth the four great world empires, followed by the rise of a fifth empire or kingdom which will be the final kingdom on earth, the great Millennial Kingdom, which Christ will inaugurate when He returns to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  In chapter 2, the kingdoms of this earth are illustrated by a great statue, and in chapter 7 they are portrayed by a series of animals.

The book of Daniel is clearly not laid out in chronological order, and this drives the casual Bible reader crazy.  Verse 1 indicates when this chapter occurs:

One night during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign over the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a dream and he wrote it down.  (Daniel 7:1  TLB)

So, we know that chapter 7 takes place somewhere around the year 553 AD.  That means that some 50 years have passed since Daniel had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great statue.  Now, the great Nebuchadnezzar had been dead a decade, and none of his successors where close to being the world leader he was.  They were weak, impotent, and distracted men, and they lead Babylon to its end.  Daniel had this vision about 14 years before the fall of Babylon, and it encompasses the nations of this world from Daniel’s time, about 500 years before Christ, to our time to the end of the ages.

Daniel was a faithful Jew, he was a man of God, an interpreter of dreams and visions, and he was a prophet.  He was also life-long political presence in Babylon.  But most of all, Daniel was a man of action.  Let’s look this man’s vision and its implications for us, today.

1.  The dream 7:2—14

Daniel’s dream and its interpretation are repetitions of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2.  There, the four parts of the great statue corresponded to the four great world empires, beginning with Babylon, and here these same empires correspond to a series of animals.

  • The empire of Babylon=the head of gold=winged lion;
  • The empire(s) of Medo-Persia=breast and arms of silver=a bear;
  • The Greek empire=belly and thighs of brass=four-headed, winged leopard;
  • The Roman empire=legs of iron=dreadful beast.

The question Bible students ask, is:  Why repeat God’s plan for the empires of the world?  These two dreams or visions reveal to man God’s unfolding of history.  Previously, God had given to Egypt’s Pharaoh two dreams about the same thing:  one dream of seven cows and one of seven ears of grain.  Joseph explained to Pharaoh why he had a dream with the same meaning twice, and Joseph’s explanation probably applies here, too:

“Both dreams mean the same thing,” Joseph told Pharaoh. “God was telling you what he is going to do here in the land of Egypt.”

The double dream gives double impact, showing that what I have told you is certainly going to happen, for God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon.   (Genesis 41:25, 32  TLB)

So what’s going to happen WILL happen, and it is happening today.  Just because liberal Bible scholars attempt to poke holes in the tapestry of Bible prophecy as it hangs in Daniel doesn’t mean Bible prophecy isn’t true or dependable.  The kingdoms of this world are portrayed as “animals” rising up out of the great sea of humanity; they are, without exception, beasts of prey—brutish, strong, living by instinct alone.  If that isn’t an accurate picture of the nations of this world throughout history, nothing is!   But the thing we need to remember is that God allows these various world powers to rise to prominence, and He permits other nations to take their place.  We see the sovereignty of God at work here.

When you  look back at history, you can see nations coming and going like images on a blackboard that get drawn, then erased, then drawn again.  Part of this vision has already taken place—what was prophecy in Daniel’s day is merely history in ours.  We have already witnessed the rise and fall of Babylon, Persian, Greece, and Rome.  The rest will surely come to pass.

2.  The blessed end

That was the end of the dream. When I awoke, I was greatly disturbed, and my face was pale with fright, but I told no one what I had seen.  (Daniel 7:28  TLB)

Both the dream and its interpretation disturbed Daniel; the emotional shock of it all overwhelmed him to the point where he felt compelled to keep it all to himself.  What would be the point to telling anybody in the royal court the dream?  Belshazzar was no Nebuchadnezzar; he had no respect for Daniel’s spirituality or for God Himself.  So Daniel didn’t tell the dream to anybody because nobody would appreciate the wonders of God’s revelations.  This was something Jesus understood well:

“Don’t give holy things to depraved men. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.”  (Matthew 7:6  TLB)

In his dream, Daniel saw new monarchies coming and going.  But the last one astounded him.  The history of the “beast kingdoms” has been written in blood and tears.  But a final kingdom will come, and this new Kingdom will be the Kingdom of God and of His Christ.

The Second Coming of the Son of Man

Next I saw the arrival of a Man—or so he seemed to be—brought there on clouds from heaven; he approached the Ancient of Days and was presented to him.  (Daniel 7:13  TLB)

What a glorious day that will be!  The Son of God, in heaven, has been given all authority to take the kingdoms of this world from the Gentiles and to establish HIS kingdom.  Jesus Himself once had this conversation with some religious leaders of His day:

Then the high priest asked him. “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?”  Jesus said, “I am, and you will see me sitting at the right hand of God, and returning to earth in the clouds of heaven.”  (Mark 14:61—62  TLB)

Right now, this world is under the dominion of the kingdoms of man.  But one day, man’s dominion of this world will come to its inevitable end when Jesus Christ returns in power and glory to build His kingdom.  He will return and He will not be happy with the man’s kingdoms!

What fools the nations are to rage against the Lord! How strange that men should try to outwit God!  For a summit conference of the nations has been called to plot against the Lord and his Messiah, Christ the King.  “Come, let us break his chains,” they say, “and free ourselves from all this slavery to God.”

But God in heaven merely laughs! He is amused by all their puny plans.  And then in fierce fury he rebukes them and fills them with fear.  For the Lord declares, “This is the King of my choice, and I have enthroned him in Jerusalem, my holy city.”

His chosen one replies, “I will reveal the everlasting purposes of God, for the Lord has said to me, ‘You are my Son. This is your Coronation Day. Today I am giving you your glory.’ ”  “Only ask and I will give you all the nations of the world.  Rule them with an iron rod; smash them like clay pots!”  (Psalm 2:1—9  TLB)

When the Lord returns, His kingdom will not be waiting for Him.  He will build it. Jesus will come with the conqueror’s sword and He will bring the nations of man into line then He will establish His kingdom.

The destruction of the beast’s power

As for the other three animals, their kingdoms were taken from them, but they were allowed to live a short time longer.  (Daniel 7:12  TLB)

The kingdoms of this world have had their way.  The first four beasts were destroyed, but the ideology and philosophy of the kingdoms will continue.  Until the Lord returns and puts down all rebellion, no matter what nation or kingdom dominates the world, the same beast-like philosophy will always prevail.  A quick glance around at our own culture certainly bears this out!  There are no more Babylonians, the Medes and Persians as world powers vanished, the Greek empire has all but vanished.  Rome fell, yet the sins that caused it to disintegrate are all alive and well in America today; they are deep in the hearts of sinful man.

But, praise God, on that great day when Jesus returns, all rebellion will be put down from the four corners of the earth, in every land and ever nation.

3.  A new kingdom is established

He was given the ruling power and glory over all the nations of the world, so that all people of every language must obey him. His power is eternal—it will never end; his government shall never fall.  (Daniel 7:14  TLB)

The kingdom of Christ, the Millennial Kingdom, will be universal in scope—all over the world, people and nations will submit to the Lordship of Christ.  Christ’s kingdom will ultimately be an everlasting kingdom.  It’s true that part of it will last one thousand years, but the Millennial Kingdom will merge into the Eternal State, carrying on into all eternity.  Imagine that.  The eternal kingdom of Christ begins on earth at the Second Coming, continues here for 1,000 years, then morphs into the Eternal state.  It will take all of eternity for God’s people to just begin to learn the fullness of God’s greatness.

4.  Victory of the saints

…the Ancient of Days came and opened his court and vindicated his people, giving them worldwide powers of government.  (Daniel 7:22  TLB)

“The Ancient of Days” is Christ.  “His people” refers to the saints of God.  God’s program for the universe will prevail and His people will prevail.  It may not seem like it right now.  In the cheap seats of history, it’s difficult to see what’s going on and understand how it all fits into God’s plan.  The thing is, God is slowly and inexorably moving the kingdoms of this world toward their inevitable end and there is nothing any prime minister, president, king or potentate can do about it.  God’s program for the universe will finally prevail through His people, the saints.

Jehovah said to my Lord the Messiah, “Rule as my regent—I will subdue your enemies and make them bow low before you.”  Jehovah has established your throne in Jerusalem to rule over your enemies. In that day of your power your people shall come to you willingly, dressed in holy altar robes.  (Psalm 110:1—3  TLB)

In a real sense, Christ’s ultimate victory will also be our ultimate victory.  We will be vindicated!  Our faith will finally be sight.  All the promises we believe and trust will finally come to pass, and they will come to pass before everybody’s eyes!  No wonder in that day:

…every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:11  TLB)

Whether they want to or not, all people, all over the world will acknowledge exactly who Jesus Christ is.  His vindication will also be ours.

Don’t you know that someday we Christians are going to judge and govern the world?  (1 Corinthians 6:2  TLB)

The end of history will not be an atomic bomb or global warming or cooling or a collision with an asteroid or even the destruction of all this is good on earth.  The goal of God’s plan for the universe, and for our planet, is the establishment of an eternal kingdom and the consummation and preservation of all that is good, and beautiful, and true, and holy (Roy Swim).

 

PEOPLE GET READY…

1 Thessalonians 4:13—5:11

Christ has been returning at any moment for the past 2,000 years. Whenever there is a social or economic upheaval anywhere in the world, but particularly here in America, attention is drawn to the Second Coming. Sometimes the occupant of the White House is the determinative factor in when the Church thinks the Second Coming will occur. As always, time passes, the upheaval passes or becomes the “new normal,” and Christians stop thinking about Christ’s return.

We are living in a time when upheavals are taking place all around us. America’s stature in the world has been on the decline for the past few years, largely because of a lack of moral authority in our politicians. Our fellow citizens are losing confidence in institutions that have always seemed to be trustworthy, institutions including the Church. Our culture has become obsessed with any and all deviances. Generally speaking, many of the West have become self-absorbed and narcissistic. Many preachers have taken note of these conditions and concluded that Christ’s return is “just around the corner.”

But is it? The early Church believed Christ would return in their lifetime. This belief in the imminent return of the Lord caused some problems in some churches of that day. Some of these problems and misunderstandings needed to be addressed and it was up to Paul to set errant believers straight.

1. The nature of Christ’s coming, 1 Thessalonians 4:13—14

The dead in Christ, vs. 13—16

Some members of the Thessalonian church had grown restless as they waited for the Lord to return. Some had stopped working, believing they should withdraw from society and wait in patience for the Second Advent. But when He didn’t return, and when it seemed life as usual was going to continue for the foreseeable future, these believers became restless and disillusioned. They were expecting the Lord to return and take them away from their persecutions and poverty. His delay also caused these confused believers to wonder about the destiny of those who died waiting for the Lord to return. To Paul’s credit, it seems he had, in fact, already taught his friends about these matters, but for some reason the truth hadn’t been understood by many in the church.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? (2 Thessalonians 2:5)

So this group of verses represents Paul’s attempt to clarify what he had already taught. To help them grasp what happens to a believer who dies before the Second Coming, Paul uses the metaphor of “those who fall asleep.” Naturally he is referring to those who have died, and Paul understood his readers would make the connection between those who are sleeping and those who have died. The connection is obvious: just as one who is asleep continues to exist, so the dead person continues to exist in spite of the fact that he is temporarily separated from his physical body. Sleep has its awakening, and death will have its resurrection. Because this is something every Christian should understand, any grief or mourning should also be temporary. Unbelievers wail and carry on when a loved one passes as though there was no hope. But believers, though they may mourn and grieve the death of a loved one, ought to understand that hope carries on; that their loved one is still alive, only their body is dead. Paul would teach his Corinthian friends and his friends in Philippi an encouraging theological fact:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far… (Philippians 1:23)

So, death is certainly not the end nor is it to be feared by the Christian. And those who have died waiting for Christ’s return have no disadvantage; those who are alive when Christ returns will not be treated with any kind of priority. Those who have died will rise first to meet Jesus in the air. This represents a kind of resurrection of all those who died during this present age, since the day of Pentecost, as Christians—those “in Christ”—as opposed to believers from other times.

Those alive in Christ, vs. 17, 18

Next in order will be those who are alive in Christ. Those who are alive when “the shout” occurs and the “trumpet” sounds will then rise to meet Christ in the air. So we see an orderly event: the dead in Christ rise first, then the living in Christ will rise. This doctrine of the rapture, disputed by some in the Church, was revealed to Paul by the Lord Himself. We’re not sure when or how Paul received this teaching, but he did and it was something the apostle taught his congregations. Even though there are segments of the Church today that don’t believe in the rapture of the Church, almost all Christians believe in the soon coming Christ—His literal, physical, and visible return to earth. This belief, the true hope of all believers, should bring hope, encouragement, and peace to all segments of the Church. We have a hope beyond anything in the world.

In verse 17, Paul uses the phrase “caught up,” to describe how the living in Christ will be snatched away. That phrase comes from a word meaning “to seize” or to “snatch.” We get the word “rapture” from the Latin translation of this verse. It refers to the miraculous transporting of the living to heaven. Paul used the same word to describe his own experience of being “caught up” to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2—4). The word also carries with it the idea of a sudden, hasty swooping away. One moment believers will be here, the next instant they will be gone.

Though the doctrine of the rapture is not seen in the Old Testament anywhere and nobody but Paul taught it in the New Testament, Jesus seemed to give His disciples a small hint in John 14:

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

The rapture of the Church really is an amazing doctrine that deserves more discussion than is offered here. Consider some of the following: When the rapture occurs, for the first time ever the Church of all times and generations and all places will exist in complete unity and harmony—not on earth, but in the air! At that time, there will truly be ONE church, not many, fragmented churches. This will represent the ultimate triumph of the Church over the “prince of the air.” For the first time, the Church that has existed through the ages will truly be overcomers.

2. The suddenness of Christ’s coming, 1 Thessalonians 5:1—3

But when will all this happen? The Thessalonians obviously wanted to know, but Paul couldn’t give them a definitive answer. The time for the Second Coming remains a mystery even today, with wild speculation popping up every so often. Paul used two analogies to describe the suddenness of the Lord’s return:

  • Unexpected. The Lord will come like a “thief in the night.” A thief sneaks around; he doesn’t knock on the door or let you know he’s coming.

  • Sudden. The Lord will return in a moment, like the coming of labor pains. As every mother knows, once the labor pains start, there is no stopping the birth process! The ones who will be caught off guard when the Lord comes will be those who aren’t looking for Him.

3. Prepare for Christ’s coming, 1 Thessalonians 5:4—11

Now that the Thessalonians, and we, have the facts, how should believers live in light of those facts?

Be watchful, vs. 4—7

This does not mean quitting your job, withdrawing from society and moving to a mountain top retreat to await the Lord’s return. It does mean that we should live disciplined, godly lives, marked by an attitude of hope, love, and faith. Watching for the return of Jesus should motivate us to live the best lives we can, as suggested by these phrases:

  • be alert.” The word means to stay wide awake. Believers can’t afford to be caught watching the paint drying! In other words, we need to know what’s going on in our family, our community, our country. We need to be engaged so we can pray and show concern for the lost.

  • be self-controlled.” This word means “to be calm.” A person who is “calm” is not restless; his mind isn’t running a marathon all day. The “self-controlled” believer is one who is fully aware of who he is, to Whom he belongs, and what his role is in the kingdom of God.

Put on God’s armor, vs. 8—10

This is a favorite passage of Scripture that most of us learned in Sunday School, but its context is right living while waiting for the Lord’s return. The believer is to be alert, wide awake, busy and calm, but also he should be wearing special armor. Repeatedly in his letters, Paul compares Christians to soldiers, so the metaphor of “ armor” is a natural one.

Like in Ephesians 6, Christians need to be clothed in spiritual armor. The “breastplate” is “love and faith” and the “helmet” is the hope of salvation.

As we live in eager expectation of the Lord’s return, we are to love one another and the hope of salvation—our helmet—means that we realize the best part of salvation is yet to come! The assurance of this hope is the fact that God has only good things in store for us.

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (vs. 9, 10)

God’s ultimate, everlasting purpose is two-fold:

  1. That we should not be lost. While we are all sinners and we were all lost, because we called on the name of the Lord for salvation and by faith accepted His terms, we will never again be counted as one of “the lost.” God has no more wrath planned for us.

  2. That we should be saved. God has prepared the Kingdom for us from the foundation of the world.

Knowing this to be true, we should be at peace no matter what our circumstances may be. God’s purpose (above) cannot be frustrated. No Christian should ever doubt their salvation. God’s will for you has been revealed to you, so why question it? God has made it crystal clear in His Word that it is His will that all human beings be saved. If anyone perishes in their sins, it is not because of some secret plan of God, it is because that lost one chose to go their own way, not God’s way.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd

THE PURPOSES OF ADVENT, Part Two

For the purpose of this miniseries, we determined that Jesus came to Earth for four reasons. The first two included (1) to destroy the Devil’s works, and (2) to take away sins. The third and fourth reasons for the Son of God coming in the flesh are (3) to reveal the Father and (4) to prepare for the Second Advent.

1. To reveal the Father, John 14:9

Dont you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say,Show us the Father?

By the time we get to John 14, Jesus’ end is near. He had been talking to His friends and three times He was interrupted. First by Thomas, who asked:

Lord, we dont know where you are going, so how can we know the way?(vs. 5)

While He was answering Thomas, Philip piped up and asked:

Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.(vs. 8)

Finally, Judas (the other one), butted in and asked:

But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?(vs. 22)

We have to admire our Lord’s patience with His “closest friends.” For three years these men walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, were witnesses to multiplied miracles and still they were clueless about who this Man was.

But it was Philip’s question that really showed what these men wanted. They understood that somehow this Man Jesus had a unique relationship with God, and what these men really wanted to was see Yahweh—to have the same special relationship with Him that Jesus had. Jesus’ answer to Philip was so simple, it must have left the apostle speechless:

Dont you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (vs. 9)

We get the impression that Jesus was mildly surprised that Philip hadn’t recognized Him for who He was. But then it’s not all that uncommon to miss God because we all approach the subject of “God the Father” with different preconceived notions that may or may not bear any resemblance to the reality of who He really is.

A lot of people today—Christians included—are like the Hebrews of the Old Testament, who had a highly intellectual concept of God because God had taught them all about Himself through His prophets and His Word. You can’t read the Old Testament without seeing the effort God went to to reveal Himself to His covenant people. From Genesis to Malachi we can see a kind of progressive revelation of God to the Hebrews. And yet, in spite of a growing head-knowledge of God, there was at the same time a corresponding moral decay in the people. Knowing facts about God is not what changes a life. It may change behavior for a while, but unless God is experienced at the heart level, a person will remain dedicated to serving themselves, not Him.

The profusion of religions and cults around Israel showed that man was always looking for something or someone to worship. Sin had so separated him from the true God that instead of seeking Him, man created gods in his image or in images that sprang from his imagination.

But all that changed with Advent, 2,000 years ago. Before He visited man in the flesh of man, in the person of His Son, God’s presence among His people was highly symbolic and sporadic. The fact is, before the coming of Christ, there was really no abiding presence of God on Earth or in His people. At various times throughout the Old Testament dispensation, the Spirit of God would come upon a person for a time to accomplish a special purpose. With the exception of King David, we have no record of God’s Spirit dwelling in anybody. God would manifest His presence in the form of clouds or smoke or in other supernatural manifestations. At the Advent, though, Jesus appeared to manifest God.

In answer to Philip’s question to to “see the Father,” Jesus’ response suggested that after three years, Philip had seen enough of Jesus to see the Father in Him. But, what exactly did Philip see in Jesus?

Philip was the very first man Jesus called to follow Him, though not the first one to actually follow our Lord. After Jesus asked Philip to follow Him, note what Philip did:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

That was the first thing Philip saw in Jesus: here was the One who embodied all the ideals of Moses and the prophets.

Next, we see Jesus asking Philip a question about where to get some bread to feed a large group of hungry followers. We are told that our Lord asked him this question to “test Philip.” Philip’s answer showed that he considered it impossible to feel all the people:

Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:7)

And yet right after that, we see Philip, along with the other apostles, sitting down with all those hungry people, waiting to be fed. Philip saw in Jesus One who was, in some unfathomable way, able to satisfy human hunger. He didn’t understand how it was possible, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying what Jesus was offering.

In John 12, we see Philip again. This time, a group of Greeks approached Philip wanting to see Jesus. Jesus’ response to Philip showed a perfect harmony between the Son and the Father:

Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27, 28)

This is what Philip saw and heard!

Finally, in John 14, Philip wanted to see the Father. How could Philip not see the Father in Jesus after all he had seen Jesus do and say? But he didn’t. He may have seen and heard, but what he saw and heard didn’t meant anything at the time. It wasn’t until after Pentecost that the light finally dawned upon Philip. It was then that Philip saw it all, and he knew that Jesus came to reveal the Father.

2. To prepare for a Second Advent, Hebrews 9:28

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Here is the final reason Jesus came: He came to prepare for another coming. The first three reasons for Advent were all necessary in order that there could be a second Advent.

At Christmas time, the First Coming was greeting with joy and gladness.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13, 14)

Certainly the angels were thrilled that the Son of God appeared in the flesh, and a handful of thoughtful men were excited, but then what? All that happiness and goodwill sort of faded away. Something was missing in the first Advent. Certainly the Messiah came, but what really changed in the world. Jesus came to end the Devil’s works, to take away sin, and to reveal the Father, but as we look at the world around us even today, we’d be hard-pressed to see any of that taking place. No, the First Advent really demands something more.

The writer to the Hebrews makes a startling assertion: Christ will appear a second time. This is not referring to some kind of mystical, spiritual coming into people’s hearts! We’re talking a literal, physical, visible appearing of Christ. This Second Coming is all over the Old Testament and the New Testament; it is an essential doctrine; it is the consummation of all things.

It is unfortunate that so many Christian fail to see the surety of the Second Coming, and among those who know it’s going to happen remain unmoved! When Christ ascended to Heaven, angels appeared to those who saw Him leave:

This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11b)

There’s no doubt about it, men of Jerusalem! Jesus is going to come back, but not as He came the first time, but as He left. The angels cannot be wrong!  Jesus Christ is going to come back.

Paul cannot be wrong!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17)

This is the blessed hope of the Church! This great doctrine of the Second Advent is what gave the early Church its hope, motivation, and encouragement. It should still do that for us today. Imagine what the Church would look like if ever day she lifted her face toward the eastern sky in expectation that this day could be that day of days! Wouldn’t we take our faith much more seriously if we honestly believed that our Lord could appear at any moment?

James, the half-brother of our Lord can’t be wrong:

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:8)

Peter wrote these encouraging words; he can’t be wrong:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13)

John, the apostle who was perhaps closest to Jesus, was he wrong when he wrote:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

And Jude couldn’t have been wrong:

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude, vs 20, 21)

Every New Testament writer writes about a Second Advent. But the writer to Hebrews gives us the reason: to bring salvation to those waiting for Him. Before we deal with what that means, note that when Jesus comes the second time, it will NOT be to bear sin. The whole of the First Advent revolved around sin. Jesus came to deal with sin. His first Advent actually revealed sin. From the Slaughter of the Innocents to the His death on the Cross, the presence of Christ on earth brought sin into the light for all to see.

He not only shone the light on sin, but he bore sin, and not just on the Cross, but all through His life, Jesus bore sin. He bore its limitations while He was living and working as a Man. In poverty, sorrow, and loneliness, our Lord bore sin. Ultimately, of course, He bore sin all the way to the Cross, where He dealt with it once and for all.

At the First Advent, sin at its very root was dealt with, at His Second Advent all creation will celebrate the victory that sin has been crushed. Jesus Christ will not come in sorrow and sadness, but to bring everlasting joy. He won’t come in loneliness, but the saints of the ages will come with Him. We celebrate the First Advent, where there was no room at the Inn for Him. But at the Second Advent, the whole universe will have to make room for Him. The First Advent was for atonement. The Second Advent for administration, for Jesus Christ will come the second time as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to establish an everlasting kingdom in righteousness and holiness.

At His Second Advent, there will be complete salvation for the believer—complete righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. The Second Advent will be a joyous occasion for those who know Christ. We are waiting, patiently, in the midst of earth’s struggle, which is really our struggle.  When Jesus comes, the conflict that persists within every believer will finally be over; we will be made whole in every way.  Heaven is waiting for the Second Advent. Hell is waiting for the Second Advent. Indeed, all creation is groaning in anticipation of the Second Advent.

He is coming! This Christmas Season, may the hope of the Second Advent fill your hearts. Today, we stand between the Advents. Our relation to the first determines our relation to the second. May Jesus Christ find room in your hearts today to prepare you for the day when He comes again.

(c)  2011 Witzend

A SURVEY OF THE MINOR PROPHETS, Part 8

OUR GOD REIGNS

Zechariah 14:1—21

The title of this book of prophecy comes from the prophet’s name, Zechariah, who preached in Jerusalem during its restoration, as a contemporary of Haggaih. His name, Zekar-Yah, properly means “Yahweh remembers.” What does Yahweh remember? His people of course!

This is a book filled with unending hope for the many Jews who felt they had been forgotten by God during the 70 years of exile.

This is the longest of the Minors and it is most frequently quoted elsewhere in Scripture. In all, there are over 70 quotations (direct and indirect) from Zechariah in the New Testament. Half of these are to be found in the book Revelation.

1. The day of the Lord, 14:1—8

The phrase, “day of the Lord” is a common one among the Minors. It speaks of the ultimate goal of the history of Earth: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His personal reign over all nations and people. However, before the coming of Christ’s Kingdom, the Earth must experience certain “birth pangs.” This is what chapter 14 deals with.

It is impossible to see this prophecy as being fulfilled at some time in the past. Though Jerusalem has been destroyed, captured, occupied, and destroyed again numerous times in the past, none of its history comes close to Zechariah’s prophecy. The “day of the Lord” is an eschatological phrase which refers a time in our future. And yet, over the centuries, the “day of the Lord” has had many inner-history fulfillments or partial fulfillments that foreshadowed the ultimate fulfillment. This supra-historical fulfillment of history will finally come to pass when Christ returns literally, physically, and visibly to the Earth to consummate the Kingdom He inaugurated at His first coming.

a. The end of judgment, vs. 1, 2

A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.

Chapter 14 picks up a thought begun back in chapter 13:

In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:8, 9)

A refining process looms on the horizon for God’s people, the Jews. The final “day of the Lord” will involve a final siege on Jerusalem; it will happen immediately before the Second Coming; it will involve Jerusalem and other nations gathering against it. In the early stages, the siege will be successful. What we are reading in verse 2 is history written backwards.

The fact that many nations will come against Jerusalem is stated repeatedly throughout the Minors:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink. (Joel 3:2, 3)

What triggered Zechariah’s harsh words of prophecy? Even though Zechariah is seeing the far future, it was the selfish behavior of his people during his time that prompted the prophecy. The people should have been working tirelessly to rebuild the Temple and fix up Jerusalem after their 70 year exile. Instead, for some 16 years after they returned to Jerusalem, the Temple had virtually no work done on it. The people were more concerned about building homes for themselves than they were with restoring God’s House.

b. God’s breakthrough, vs. 3—8

In spite of how hopeless it will seem for Jerusalem, suddenly the King of Kings will return in full glory for all to see, in the face of the Antichrist’s forces:

Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (vs, 3, 4)

In his book of Revelation, John describes the same event like this:

Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

The Lord will return personally, literally, physically, and visibly to the Earth, just as He said He would, at the exact location He departed from after His earthly ministry was over. Remember what the the early believers were told:

Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

While Zechariah indicates that Jesus will return in power to fight for His people, ultimately He is coming back with “healing in His wings,” according to Malachi 4:2. But before the healing must come great Earth upheavals and catastrophic events that will change the landscape of the Middle East and beyond. See Revelation 16:18, 19, for example.

2. King of the Earth, 14:9—15

a. Return to Shema, vs. 9—11

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (vs 9)

While on the island of Patmos, John was given a look into this same event:

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

On that day, Jesus Christ will finally be seen by all and acknowledged by all people as the one and only “King of kings and Lord of lords.” And in a final nod to the Jews, their great confession, the Shema, will be regarded by all as true: there is one Lord.

b. Judgment on Babylon, vs. 12—15

This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (vs 12)

As we read about the literal Second Coming of Christ, it is sometimes difficult to separate the figurative language from the literal. We read about the splitting of the Mount of Olives, the spring of living waters, the interruption of God’s own day, and other strange events. But at verse 12, we see a literal horror which John writes about in Revelation 19:11—18. Here we seen a coming together of the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses.

3. Worship of the King, 14:16—21

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. (vs. 16)

In spite of the awful decimation that will take place on Earth as described in the previous verses, there will be those who survive. Theologians are split as to whether these “survivors” will be a converted remnant among all the nations, or just people in general who are not touched by God’s various judgments. It seems to us that there will, in fact, be many, many survivors, some not converted at all, since there will be those who refuse to go and worship.

Three features of this worship become clear in this group of verses:

a. Jerusalem will be the center of faith in the world, 14:16

The Messiah will take His rightful place on the throne of David, and nations will stream to Jerusalem to worship Him and pay Him homage. We are told that all people will celebrate the “Festival of Tabernacles.” Why this festival in particular? This feast, out of all Jewish religious feasts, has been traditionally open to both the people of Israel and to strangers.

The Passover Feast pictured the death of the Messiah as our Redeemer; the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictured the walk of believers in fellowship with the Savior; the Feast of Firstfruits foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus; and the Feast of Pentecost predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So the Feast of Tabernacles will remain unfulfilled until the Kingdom age and Israel is gathered to her own land.

b. All nations will come to Jerusalem annually, 14:17—19

Those who refuse to come will be dealt with harshly by God. This group of verses reminds us that, even in the great day when the glory of the Lord covers the earth, during the Millennial Kingdom, there be some who will simply rebel. Egypt is singled out here perhaps because as so often in the past it symbolized a defiant and rebellion nation.

Here is an accurate glimpse into the nature of the Millennial Kingdom. Just because Jesus Christ will rule and reign as the plant’s Sovereign, not every human soul alive at that time will be saved. It simply means that the Godly influence of a divinely ordered kingdom will be a positive influence over all the affairs of human beings. Justice, purity and righteousness will all be favored.

c. Holiness to the Lord will dominate all worship, 14:20, 21

On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.

This is a description of the true nature of the Messiah’s kingdom. It will be a holy kingdom, dominated by holiness in all things. Perowne observes:

The ornaments of worldly pomp and warlike power shall be as truly consecrated as the mitre of the High Priest, and every vessel used in the meanest sense of the Temple as holy as the vessels of the altar itself. Nay, every common vessel throughout the city and the whole land shall be so holy as to be meet for the service of the sanctuary, and every profane person all be for ever banished from the house of the Lord…All distinction between sacred and secular shall be at an end, because all shall now be alike holy.

We may sum up the teaching of these verses like this:

  • There will be holiness in public life (“the bells of the horses);

  • There will be holiness in religious life (“cooking pots in the Lord’s house);

  • There will be holiness in private life (“every pot in Jerusalem and Judah”).

And so Zechariah ends his book of prophecy in a most stunning way. This man, whose name means “Yahweh remembers” has proven that God has never forgotten His people. God Himself will end human history as He promised He would in His Covenant: His people will never be forgotten or foresaken.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:14, 15)

(c)  2011 WitZend

PSALM 110: The Most Royal Psalm

THE MOST ROYAL PSALM

This may just well be the “royalist” psalm in the entire Book of Psalms. It has been referred to as “the jewel among the psalms” and it is quoted an astonishing 21 times in the New Testament, each time in relation to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. In fact, even Jesus said this psalm referred to Himself and His kingdom. There are some who think Psalm 110, written by David, was written also written about David and his rule over Israel. This is probably at least partially true; this psalm probably refers entirely to Jesus and partly to David.  Given how the writers of the New Testament viewed this psalm, we can be certain that David, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote some of the most significant things about the Messiah and His kingdom.

1. The King, verses 1—3

The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

This verse is quoted verbatim no less than 15 times in the New Testament and “echoed” in many other passages. When you hear this verse quoted, it sounds awkward. When you read it, it becomes slightly clearer, with the first occurrence of the word “lord” capitalized, the second in lower case. But if we take out the English “lord” and replace it with it with its original, the verse takes on a whole new meaning:

Yahweh says to Adonai, “Sit at my (Yahweh’s) right hand until I make your (Adonai’s) enemies a footstool for your (Adonai’s) feet.”

It’s clear, then, that two different “lords” are being talked about: God, Yahweh, and someone else, Adonai. It is possible that this particular verse has two meanings: an immediate one and a future one. In its immediate setting, the psalmist could have written about God’s promise to Kind David and his family. When read with that context in mind, we think about the Davidic Covenant—the fact that his authority over God’s people was given him by God Himself. In other words, David was writing about his divine appointment as king over Israel. To make the enemies a “footstool” an eastern metaphor for complete control. So, the immediate context, at least as far as this verse is concerned, makes sense. David was God’s chosen man to lead the Hebrews, and God gave His warrior-king victory of his enemies.

As we read on, it becomes evident that “Adonai” must refer to someone in addition to David. Even in verse one, the use of the word “Adonai” is the tip off; it means “one who has rule or authority,” “one of high rank.” In the Bible, it is frequently used of kings or princes, but here in Psalm 110, because it occurs after the word “my,” it must refer to someone of “higher rank” than the author of the psalm, David. Who can be higher than God’s divinely appointed king? Whom did David think he was writing about?

Thankfully, we have the New Testament. As to what was in David’s mind, we cannot know. But we know what was in God’s mind thanks to the things Jesus said and Paul wrote. We know that “Adonai” refers to Jesus Christ. The meaning of this verse, then, becomes exciting; it’s a picture of the Son of God, at His Father’s right hand (which itself is a place of authority and power), already in the position of sovereignty, already lord over all, though creation be in temporary revolt against His rule.

The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies.” (verse 2)

Verse two can also refer to David, and knowing Hebrew history we know that David did rule in the midst of his enemies. David’s military victories laid the groundwork for a generation of peace under his son’s rule. As He did David, so God will give strength to His Son, Jesus, as indicated by the phrase “mighty scepter.” God will extend Christ’s authority and sovereignty so that even heaven’s enemies will recognize Him as Lord and King over all.

The kingdom of God will become a kingdom of glory. Verse 3 is a difficult verse to put into English. The NASB is considerably different from the tNIV, though both are valid ways to look at what David was trying to convey:

Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. (NASB)

Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb. (tNIV)

Either “people” or “troops” could be correct, or perhaps the meaning of the verse is all-inclusive; when Christ rules, there will be a “national consecration.” Today in the kingdom of God we have a lot of “reluctant service,” and while that kind of service is better than no service at all, there will come a day when Christ returns to earth as King of kings when all His people will consecrate themselves willingly to the service of the Lord. What a great day that will be! At last we will see things clearly and not through “a glass darkly.”

2. The priest, verse 4

If you think of Jesus Christ a King, you are only half right. He is also the great Priest; the greatest priest ever!

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Generally speaking, according to the religious laws of Israel there was a clear separation between the offices of king, priest, and prophet. It is true that David assumed the role of priest on several occasions, the intention of God’s law was that the two offices of king and priest should remain separate. No such separation is indicated for Heaven’s King; He alone is uniquely qualified to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. In Jesus, all these royal functions are combined.

This one verse alone is quoted six times in the New Testament book Hebrews! It was used to show that the priesthood of Jesus Christ would be different and far superior to that of Aaron. That’s what’s meant by the “in the order of Melchizedek.” All the priests of Israel descended from Aaron—they were from the same family line. Melchizedec, though, was a high priest long, long before Aaron, therefore his priesthood descended, not from his lineage, but from God. In that sense, Jesus is similar to Melchizedek; Jesus is not a priest because He descended from Aaron, but because it is His Father’s will. This makes Jesus THE superior High Priest, being “handpicked” by God Himself. It means that Jesus is the High Priest because God decreed it so. And Jesus will be our High Priest forever; through all eternity. For a full discussion of this, read Hebrews 7.

Even the name “Melchizedek” is significant. Not only was he king over Jerusalem long before the Law was given, by several hundred years (see Genesis 14), but his name means “king of righteousness.” This “king of righteousness” was “king of Salem” (or Jerusalem), which itself “peace.” If we put all that together, the king of righteousness was also the king of peace. No wonder God equated Jesus Christ with the earthly king Melchizedek. Our great King: the Righteous King of Kings and Prince of Peace.

3. The triumph, verses 5—7

These three verses all speak of the future, when the King will return in glory. What’s interesting is that back in verse one, it appears as though God the Father will give the enemy into His King’s hands. But in verse five, it is the King who fights victoriously:

The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

Notice the lower case “lord.” It is not Yahweh who is the right hand of Adonai, it is Adonai who is at Yahweh’s right hand. It is God who is being addressed here. Adonai, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace will “crush” kings in His “wrath.” Yes, sometimes peace can only be achieved through violence! The word translated “crush” can also mean “shatter,” “shake,” or “agitate.” The “kings” referred to here are the enemies of Christ. To His enemies; to those who don’t know Him, Jesus does not and He will not being peace, but a sword.

Our King-Priest will also be the Judge of all the living and the dead:

He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. (verse 6)

No wonder the “Day of the Lord” is called “dreadful!” When Christ returns as King, it will be awful for those who rejected Him. There will be no hope.

Verse seven is a curious verse in no matter what version it is read:

He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift up his head.

Moffatt, in his translation, translates verse seven like this:

He drinks from any stream he has to cross, then charges forward triumphing.

It’s a very poetic way of picturing our King in battle; nothing slows Him down; not a stream or thirst! Our King, victorious in battle, surrounded by corpses, wearied and thirsty, pauses in the fray to drink, then He looks up, finds strength to continue the fight. Nothing can stop the King.

The once-crucified One, now exalted to God’s right hand, will one day return in great glory and power to set things right. Evil will be no more. Righteousness, justice and peace will prevail on the earth. The spiritual triumphs of the Cross saved our souls and restored our relationship with our Creator and Heavenly Father. When Jesus comes again, He will triumph again, this time He will vanquish evil, restore the earth to perfection and establish His kingdom forever.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

A SURVEY OF THE MAJOR PROPHETS, 2

Glory of the Kingdom, Isaiah 11:1—16

If we look at the book of Isaiah as a whole, this section, 11:1—11, is the third Messianic picture, the “Stump of Jesse.”.  The first such picture was the prophecy of “Immanuel” in chapter 7, and the second in chapter 9, where the Messiah is referred to the “Wonderful Counselor.”  In these remarkable verses, the Messiah stands as God’s Rod of Righteousness and Peace, in contrast to Assyria as the Lord’s rod of chastisement and anger.  These three Messianic prophecies were all given by Isaiah during the reign of King Ahaz.

1.  The failure of Ahaz

The word “failure” is the kindest word to describe the 16 years of misery this wretched king inflicted upon his people.  His disastrous career is chronicled in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28.

When Ahaz ascended to the throne, Judah was enjoying unparalleled peace and prosperity, which began during the time King Uzziah and continued through the reign of his son, Jotham.  So good were the times, that Isaiah wrote that the “treasure” would never end, the land was rich and productive, the army was strong and unbeatable and business was booming.  How quickly things changed; how quickly did Judah’s fortunes reverse.  Within 16 years, thanks to the hapless King Ahaz, the land became desolate, the people and economy became depressed, and the King had been reduced to a mere figurehead as the nation of Judah fell to the mighty Assyrians.   All this was due to Ahaz’s mishandling of the nation’s wealth, which had been handed to him by his predecessor.

Ahaz’s life shows how one sin gets heaped up onto another.  Ahaz, evil and vile as he descended into idolatry practiced the kind of worship seen in the pagan nations around them; it was he who introduced Molech to the Judeans.  He introduced a perverted kind of worship into the mainstream of Judaism which corrupted the entire religion.

This man was such a failure, such a perverse loser, that he was a failure even in death.  The people were so relieved to be rid of him, that the refused Ahaz burial in a royal tomb.

This was the national atmosphere in which Isaiah gave the kind of Messianic prophecies he is known for today.

1.  Personality of the Messiah, 11:1—3a

His origin, verse 1

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

At the conclusion of chapter 10, God’s mighty ax had decimated the mighty forest-like Assyrian nation as the nation of Judah had been mowed by the Assyrian army.   At the beginning of chapter 11, the purpose of God’s grace is seen in the growth of a shoot from the stump of Jesse.

The mighty dynasty that David left behind had been reduced to mere stump by this time in Isaiah’s life, but it was in even worse condition by the time of Christ.  The House of David was still in existence, but Israel had been without a king for over 600 years!

Isaiah sees the Messiah as a shoot (small, new growth) coming from the stump (remnant) of Jesse’s family.  He arises as a young sapling, healthy and full of strength and vigor, life from death.  Jesse, of course was never king, but his son David was.  Perhaps not mentioning David’s name was Isaiah’s way of showing how little dignity there would be left in the House of David when the Messiah finally came.  Life, yes, but when Jesus came, there was not an ounce of dignity left in David’s line.

Jesus Christ, Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world, was born not only from the Davidic dynasty, but from a ruined and sinful humanity.  Jesus Christ, from the stump of Jesse, would become as a Tree of Life for untold millions who reach out to Him in faith.  Incidentally, the word “branch” comes from the same Hebrew word as “Nazarene.”

His power, verses 2, 3a

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

In chapter 10, the Assyrian king bragged about his own power and wisdom (10:8—14), but the coming Messiah would be equipped for His work by the Spirit of the Lord Himself!  The prophet sees the coming Messiah with a supernatural character, anointed by the seven-fold Spirit of the Lord (see Revelation 3:1).   This fullness of the Spirit manifested in Christ, incidentally, is seen in type in the seven-branched lampstand in the Tabernacle.

Of course, the fullness of the Spirit is available to all believers, since the same Holy Spirit indwells us as indwelt Him, however very few believers manifest any of what Jesus manifested.

The seven-fold anointing has to do with the quality of the Messiah’s life and character, and is as follows:

The Spirit of Wisdom.  This refers to the quality that enables a person to use right means to achieve a desired end, leading to success.  Paul wrote this—

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  (1 Corinthians 1:30)

The Spirit of Understanding.  This indicates not only knowledge and wisdom in general, but discrimination in particular.  Upon the Messiah rests the ability to distinguish that which is right and true from things that are false and dangerous.  It is unfortunate that so many believers lack discernment at a time when they need it most!

The Spirit of Counsel is the ability to impart knowledge to others and to offer sound guidance.

The Spirit of Might.  This would indicate not only resolute strength of purpose, but the ability to achieve that purpose.  The Greek indicates physical strength, but also mental and spiritual power.  Surely Jesus manifested this in His dealings with demons, disease, nature and even death.

The Spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of the Lord.  This is one quality with two aspects, for one leads to the other.  By means of the supernatural spirit of knowledge, one has an understanding of spiritual things and his knowledge of God becomes intensely real.  It is through the Holy Spirit that we can have fellowship with both God the Father and the Son and it is this same Spirit who redeems us who gives us intimate knowledge of both.  The fear of the Lord that comes from the Lord really has more to do with a holy reverence for God’s Word, His Will and His Person.  The fear of the Lord involves lives marked by true piety, devoutness, and esteem for God’s authority and will.

The Spirit of delight in the fear of the Lord.  This is the final quality of the Messiah’s supernatural power.  In the Hebrew, it is a curious phrase; it indicates a “keen ability to smell.”  Some scholars have translated this awkward phrase like this—

He shall draw His breath in the fear of the Lord.

And the fear of Jehovah is a fragrance to Him.

To the Messiah, Yahweh is everything.

2.  Purpose of the Messiah’s reign, verses 3b—5

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.  Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Unlike human leaders, the Messiah will not judge by mere appearance, or render judgments on the basis of mere hearsay!  The coming Messiah will be the Perfect Judge, perfectly suited to the job.  His complete and incorruptible authority will be based on God’s sense of justice, rooted and grounded in His holiness.   His decisions will with made with a keen sense of justice and quality, even for the poor and the meek.

The Messiah’s word will be as powerful as rod.  The Word of God is active and powerful and the Messiah’s Word of judgment will be completely effective and right.  He will judge AS the Word of God—

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  (Revelation 19:13—15)

This testifies to the Messiah’s awesome power:  He alone can render a just verdict and He alone is able to execute the judgments He pronounces.  In Him alone word and action become virtually one.

3.  Peace in His Kingdom, verses 6—9

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. Infants will play near the hole of the cobra; young children will put their hands into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

When the Messiah comes, everything will be different; everything will be made right once again, as it was in beginning.  The predatoriness of nature will be miraculously transformed into blessed peacefulness.  In the Kingdom to come, though, it will not be Adam who will be king, but rather the Second Adam, the Messianic King; in His reign nature will be at complete peace with itself and with human beings.   Whether resting, feeding, or playing, all animal life will live in harmony.

So perfect will conditions be in the Messianic kingdom, that even a little child would be able to gather all kinds of animals into one group without being harmed!  Not only that, knowledge of God will cover the earth.  This is a theologically packed statement.  It links man’s complete redemption and restoration to “knowledge of God.”  Man was alienated from God when he fell in the Garden of Eden.  Over the intervening centuries, mankind’s knowledge of God has been dwindling, but when the Messiah comes, we will know God as the Son knows the Father!

4.  Rally and restoration, verses 10—15

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.  (verse 12)

In the Messiah’s kingdom, nations from around the globe will stream to Jerusalem to be instructed by the Messiah Himself.   This shows the amazing drawing power of the Word of God; this same Word draws sinners to God today, but today the Word is hindered by the influence and presence of Satan in the world.  When the Messiah comes, Satan will be bound for 1,000 and the Word will go forth completely unhindered and for the first time, men will see how truly perfect His Word is.  No wonder nations will pour into Jerusalem in the Millennial Kingdom!

When Christ returns as Messiah, Isaiah’s glorious Christmas prophecy “God with us” will be finally realized; His dwelling place shall be renowned the world over for its glory and it will be known as the place where God lives with His people.  Hymn writer John Newton captured this though so well:

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode;
on the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

The phrase “in that day” always refers to the eschatological future—our future—and refers most certainly to the Second Coming of Christ and the founding of His Millennial Kingdom.   When Christ comes back, He will restore the glories of Israel by establishing His throne there, but also by gathering His people from the four corners of the earth—

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.  (verse 11)

And so the Messiah will be truly King of the Jews.  The fallen genealogical tree of Jesse through David shall grow again, realized by His virgin-born descendant, Jesus Christ.  Not only will nations rally around King Jesus, but all the envy and strife so common among the Israelites will vanish in an instant in the presence of their long-awaited King.  Even though most often read at Christmas time, we see that this prophecy of Isaiah’s really contains two fulfillments; David’s descendant was born in obscurity as the Christmas story goes, but He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords at His glorious Second Advent.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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