Thursday, October 31, 2013

The reason to rejoice over October 31st

Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

I want to share with you today why I find so much joy over October 31st. One of the Greatest Revivals of all time - the Protestant Reformation, began almost 500 years ago on October 31, 1517.  This movement was used of God to realign Christianity back to the Bible and the centrality of the Gospel. Jesus promised his church in Matthew 16:18 - "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." Spiritual darkness had increased in the period of history called the Middle Ages (variously defined, but for simplicity we'll assign 800-1517 A.D). 

The light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, though dimmed by the human traditions of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, was not quenched. True to Jesus' promise, the scriptures remained intact and throughout the centuries a handful of Bible teachers like John Wycliffe, John Huss and others preached the Gospel's central message of Justification by faith. Nevertheless Justification by Faith Alone was not the North Star doctrine of the church, but rather was on the outer edges of the firmament of the church's teaching.  The guiding light of the church in Europe was the Papal system, the Roman Catholic church's system of sacraments and centuries of tradition mixed with Christianity.  

Justification by Faith alone, taught by the Prophets, Christ and the Apostles needed to be front and center once again.  The Biblical Gospel needed to be in not just a few mouths of travelling preachers and groups journeying throughout the regions of spiritually darkened Europe, but central to the preaching of pulpits everywhere. In today's post I want to urge every Christian to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with at least one person over the next week. We will be surveying what took place in that move of God that began on October 31, 1517 called the Reformation. Below is the main reason I rejoice over October 31st.  May it be your primary reason by the end of today's post.

As already noted, nearly 500 years ago the Roman Catholic Church had a repressive system of religion that had people buying what was in their minds a right standing with God. Over the centuries a whole system of church tradition had accumulated, telling people that in order to be right with God, they had to make pilgrimages to certain churches and make financial contributions to secure their place with God both in this life and the one to come. In addition, the church also manipulated people to make contributions, alleging that once paid, their dead relatives would be freed from an imagined place called purgatory, and thus go to heaven.


One man, a monk, a "holy man" in the Roman Catholic system of religion, was very troubled in his soul. He had dedicated his life to achieving the salvation promised by the Roman Catholic church. Despite his best efforts, he felt more guilty and alienated from God, even though he confessed to the priests, prayed hours a day and went on long fasts. That man's name was Martin Luther.


Martin Luther was so troubled that he began searching the scriptures and read these words in Galatians 3:11 - "The just shall live by faith". God's Grace was at work, and suddenly Martin Luther saw that all of the pilgrimages, the contributions to the churches, the confessions, fastings, being baptized into the church, even being a Monk - all of it - contributed nothing to his salvation. Alas, Luther rediscovered the heart of the Christian Gospel that all but a faithful few had forgotten over the centuries - that a man is made right before God by faith alone in Christ Alone.


Luther did a 16th century equivalent of facebook - He made a post. Only this post was pen and paper nailed to the door of a church (much like if we were to post on facebook or announcements on a bulletin board). Luther wanted to make a public announcement for all to see, posting what was called his "95 theses" on a church door in Wittenberg Germany. These 95 reasons or "theses" aimed to protest the Roman Catholic system to which the Bible revealed to be corrupt. Luther did this on October 31, 1517, sparking the greatest move of God in the past 500 years - The Protestant Reformation.  Luther's main objective was to oppose the system of Indulgences wherein the church promised to those who paid money access to the overflow of grace contained in the Roman Catholic Church's treasury of merits. 

The root or formal cause of Luther's call for Reform had to do with ultimate authority in the Christian life and church.  The big question Luther needed to answer was: is the Pope and his statements concerning who went to heaven and who did not the ultimate authority for the church, or is it sacred scripture that God alone revealed to communicate matters pertaining to this life and the one to come? As Martin Luther wrestled over such questions, his conclusion was - Scripture alone! 

As Martin Luther denounced the Catholic Church's system of indulgences, a second question emerged: how is a man or woman made right with God? It was in his reading of Paul's letters to Galatians and Romans that God showed him that God's gifting of faith is not only the necessary, but also sufficient means in which the sinner receives Christ's accomplished work of salvation. (compare Ephesians 2:8-9)  

Roman Catholicism of 16th century Europe, as well as today, communicates faith to be necessary for salvation - however it teaches that faith by itself is not sufficient.  According to Rome, one must participate in the Roman Catholic church system of baptism, confession, penance and Mass to be deemed right by God and to stay right.  

In contrast, Luther and those after him re-asserted the Biblical truth that faith alone is both the necessary and sufficient means of receiving the gift of salvation.  Following God's declaration of the sinner's righteousness in saving faith, the Christian life proceeds in Godly living with a faith that is not alone, but produces the fruits of Godliness. 

Thus Justification by Faith Alone became the central doctrine or material cause driving the vehicle of the Protestant Reformation.  The doctrine of scripture alone (sola scriptura) was Luther's fuel in the engine that drove His call for reform - Justification by faith alone (sola fide).  Luther himself noted that Justification by Faith is the one article upon which the church rises or falls.


Soon the then newly invented printing press was utilized to distribute copies of Luther's 95 Theses all over Germany.  As we already explained, the heart and sole of the Reformation centered around the re-discovery of the unique authority of scripture which proclaims the truth of Justification by faith Alone.  This is the main reason I find reason to rejoice over October 31. The Gospel shined forth not as a candle but as a brilliant sun, outshining all other would be contenders. Because of God's movement in the life of one man, the Gospel, preached by the prophets, Christ and the apostles, would once again shine.1  

It is time to take back October 31, and use this day to proclaim the truth of scripture and the reformation, sparked on October 31, 1517.  Gospel Light, not darkness, should characterize our lives as Christians.  October 31st has been for years by Wiccans and people of the Pagan/Witchcraft worldview to observe one of the so-called "spirit nights" on their yearly calendar.  Rather than promoting a day of darkness and wickedness, witches and ghosts, Christians need to take a God-centered event like the Reformation and remind themselves of how God led His church back to the Bible and salvation through faith alone in Christ alone.  

The Reformation was about calling forth people from spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.  Someone once said: "It is more effective to light a candle than merely curse the darkness".  Lets light the Gospel light and shine the glory of the Gospel.  As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 - “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."   

End Notes______________
1 As with all major movements of God, the Protestant Reformation was not without God having moved upon prior people and groups who lived before Martin Luther.  Men like John Wycliff and John Huss, who both lived and ministered at the end of the 1300's.  John Wycliffe produced the first complete English translation of the Bible from what was then the prevailing Bible translation of the day - the Latin Vulgate.  John Huss preached 100 years before Luther came on the scene and ended up dying in Martyrdom.  Men such as these are referred to as the "morningstar" of the Reformation, since they signaled a precursor of the cry for Reformation that would ring throughout Europe in the 16th century.   

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

P2 - The significance of Christ redeeming men rather than angels - Steven Charnock

Hebrews 2:14-15 "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham."

In yesterday's post I provided a quote from the classic 17th century theologian Stephen Charnock's work: "On the Existence and Attributes of God".  The reason being was to explore the significance behind Christ's redemptive work being extended to lost human beings rather than the angelic realm.  The above text proclaims a significant truth and it is this blog writer's opinion that Charnock provides one of the best explanations on this subject.  We saw yesterday what he had to say with reference to the angelic realm.  Today we see further Charnock's comments on how God's goodness in redemption exceeds that of any goodness He expressed towards the fallen angelic realm. My prayer is that you will again be edified in reading this wonderful, Spirit gifted man.

An Excerpt from Stephen Charnock's "On the Existence and Attributes of God"1

His Goodness in redemption is greater than any goodness expressed to the fallen angels 2

"It is the wonder of his goodness to us, that he was mindful of fallen man, and careless of fallen angels; that he should visit man, wallowing in death and blood, with the dayspring from on high, and never turn the
Egyptian darkness of devils into cheerful day; when they sinned, Divine thunder dashed them into hell; when man sinned, Divine blood wafts the fallen creature from his misery: the angels wallow in their own blood forever, while Christ is made partaker of our blood, and wallows in his blood, that we might not
forever corrupt in ours; they tumbled down from heaven, and Divine goodness would not vouchsafe to catch them; man tumbles down, and Divine goodness holds out a hand drenched in the blood of Him, that
was from the foundations of the world, to lift us up (Heb. 2:16). 

He spared not those dignified spirits, when they revolted; and spared not punishing his Son for dusty man, when he offended; when he might as well forever have let man he in the chains wherein he had entangled himself, as them. 

We were as fit objects of justice as they, and they as fit objects of goodness as we; they were not more wretched by their fall than we; and the poverty of our nature rendered us more unable to recover ourselves, than the dignity of theirs did them; they were his Reuben, his first-born; they were his might, and the beginning of his strength; yet those elder sons he neglected, to prefer the younger; they were the prime and golden pieces of creation, not laden with gross matter, yet they lie under the ruins of their fall, while man, lead in comparison of them, is refined for another world. 

They seemed to be fitter objects of Divine goodness, in regard of the eminency of their nature above the human; one angel excelled in endowments of mind and spirit, vastness of understanding, greatness of power, all the sons of men; they were more capable to
praise him, more capable to serve him; and because of the acuteness of their comprehension, more able to have a due estimate of such a redemption, had it been afforded them; yet that goodness which had created them so comely, would not lay itself out in restoring the beauty they had defaced. 

The promise was of bruising the serpent’s head for us, not of lifting up the serpent’s head with us; their nature was not assumed, nor any command given them to believe or repent; not one devil spared, not one apostate spirit
recovered, not one of those eminent creatures restored; every one of them hath only a prospect of misery, without any glimpse of recovery; they were ruined under one sin, and we repaired under many. 

All His redeeming goodness was laid out upon man (Psalm 144:3); “What is man that thou takest knowledge of him; and the Son of man, that thou makest account of him?” Making account of him above angels; as they
fell without any tempting them, so God would leave them to rise, without any assisting them. I know the schools trouble themselves to find out the reasons of this peculiarity of grace to man, and not to them; because the whole human nature fell, but only a part of the angelical; the one sinned by a seduction, and
the other by a sullenness, without any tempter; every angel sinned by his own proper will, whereas Adam’s posterity sinned by the will of the first man, the common root of all. 

God would deprive the devil of any glory in the satisfaction of his envious desire to hinder man from attainment and possession of that
happiness which himself had lost. The weakness of man below the angelical nature might excite the Divine mercy; and since all the things of the lower world were created for man, God would not lose the honor of his works, by losing the immediate end for which he framed them. 

And finally, because in the restoration of angels, there would have been only a restoration of one nature, that was not comprehensive of the nature of inferior things; but after all such conjectures, man must sit down, and acknowledge Divine goodness to be the only spring, without any other motive. Since Infinite Wisdom could have contrived a way for redemption for fallen angels, as well as for fallen man, and restored both the one and the other; why might not Christ have assumed their nature as well as ours, into the unity of the Divine person, and suffered the wrath of God in their nature for them, as well as in his human soul for us? 

It is as conceivable that two natures might have been assumed by the Son of God, as well as three souls be in man distinct, as some think there are.

1. Stephen Charnock. The Existence and Attributes of God. Baker Books 2000.  Originally Charnock had written his work in the mid-17th century.  The piece quoted above for today's post, as well as tomorrow's post, comes from Volume 2, pages 262-265

2. The electronic version of Charnock's work is quoted in today's post and the address is:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The significance of Christ redeeming men rather than angels

Hebrews 2:14-15 "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham."

Recently I came across a section from the 17th century theologian Steven Charnock's classic work: "The Existence and Attributes of God" that I felt had to be shared with you who read this blog. In the piece, Charnock explains how we may consider the height of God's goodness in redemption as exceeding the goodness He displays in creation. In perhaps no other work have I read such a clear explanation behind the significance of Christ having came to redeem men rather than angels. The piece is rich and I hope you find it edifying. 1 

An excerpt from Stephen Charnock'a "On the Existence and Attributes of God"2

It (God's goodness shown in redemption towards man) was a greater goodness than was expressed towards the angels.

"The Son of God did no more expose his life for the confirmation of those that stood, than for the restoration of those that fell; the death of Christ was not for the holy angels, but for simple man; they needed the grace of God to confirm them, but not the death of Christ to restore or preserve them; they had a beloved holiness to be established by the powerful grace of God, but not any abominable sin to be blotted out by the blood of God; they had no debt to pay but that of obedience; but we had both a debt of obedience to the precepts, and a debt of suffering to the penalty, after the fall. 

Whether the holy angels were confirmed by Christ, or no, is a question: some think they were, from Col. 1:20, where “things in heaven” are said to be “reconciled;” but some think, that place signifies no more than the reconciliation of things in heaven, if meant of the angels, to things on earth, with whom they were at enmity in the cause of their Sovereign; or the reconciliation of things in heaven to God, is meant the glorified saints, who were once in a state of sin, and whom the death of Christ upon the cross reached, though dead long before. 

But if angels were confirmed by Christ, it was
by him not as a slain sacrifice, but as a Sovereign Head of the whole creation, appointed by God to gather all things into one; which some think to be the intent of Eph. 1:10, where all things, as well those in
heaven, as those in earth, are said to be “gathered together in one, in Christ.” 

Where is a syllable in Scripture of his being crucified for angels, but only for sinners! Not for the confirmation of the one, but
the reconciliation of the other; so that the goodness whereby God continued those blessed spirits in heaven, through the effusions of his grace, is a small thing to the restoring us to our forfeited happiness, through the streams of Divine blood. 

The preserving of a man in life is a little thing, and a smaller benefit than the raising a man from death. The rescuing a man from an ignominious punishment, lays a greater
obligation than barely to prevent him from committing a capital crime. The preserving a man standing upon the top of a steep hill, is more easy than to bring a crippled and physical man, from the bottom to the top. The continuance God gave to the angels, is not so signal a mark of his goodness as the deliverance he gave to us; since they were not sunk into sin, nor by any crime fallen into misery."

More tomorrow..........

1. Stephen Charnock. The Existence and Attributes of God. Baker Books 2000.  Originally Charnock had written his work in the mid-17th century.  The piece quoted above for today's post, as well as tomorrow's post, comes from Volume 2, pages 262-265

2. The electronic version of Charnock's work is quoted in today's post and the address is:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jonathan Edwards' thoughts on the Angel of the Lord

Isaiah 63-7-9 "I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses. 8 For He said, “Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old."

Yesterday we considered how God the Son appeared as the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament and how what He did paralleled what He would do as God in human flesh, Jesus Christ.  In today's post I would like the reader to consider this short piece on the Angel of the Lord from one of the premier theological thinkers of all time pictured above - Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Jonathan Edwards was a pastor, scholar, leader of the First Great Awakening in New England and died shortly after having begun his presidency over what is today Princeton University. May you be edified by this short paragraph and use it to enrich your understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edward's thoughts on 'The Angel of the Lord' 
"Genesis 2:2. 'And on the seventh day God ended all his works'. The word translated work, is Greek or Hebrew, angel or messenger, and therefore most properly signifies a work done in the execution of some function to which the workman is appointed, as the angel, messenger, officer, or workman of another, and so is fitly used concerning the work of creation; which was performed by the Son of God, who is often called the angel of the Lord: he being the Father's great officer, and artificer, through whom he performs all his work, and executes his eternal counsels and purposes."1

1. This paragraph is taken from the compilation of Jonathan Edwards works entitled: "The works of Jonathan Edwards" and is available on Kindle.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Meet the Angel of the Lord

Genesis 16:5-7 "And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence. 7 Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur."

Whenever you study the Bible, the aim is to see where you can find either the Person of, prophecies about or promises concerning Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament we find at least fifteen references to a mysterious figure that is identified as the Angel of the Lord - with that same figure having Divine attributes and authority. Most Bible scholars in history and today identify the Angel of the Lord to be none other than the pre-incarnate (before the flesh) appearance of the Person of the Son in the Old Testament. Such appearances are called by Bible teachers "Christophanies", meaning "Christ appearances". In today's post we want to explore some of the first texts that have to do with the Angel of the Lord with this purpose: to discover what Jesus did in the Old Testament, and how those activities paved the way and compare to all He accomplished, is accomplishing and will accomplish as revealed on the pages of the New Testament. 

Meet the Angel of the Lord  - Genesis 16-21
Genesis 16 is the chapter in Abraham's life where he and his wife Sarah attempt to "help out" God in the fulfillment of God's promise of a descendant.  It had been nearly ten years since God had promised them both that Abraham and she would be a blessing to many nations through the promised seed of Genesis 12. Abraham was 86 years of age and Sarah would had been in her late seventies when the events of Genesis 16 occurred.  

Sarah decided it was time to intervene and so she convinced Abraham to take her Egyptian maid Hagar as a second wife and sire a child.  Abraham did that and when Hagar conceived the child, she began to look down on Sarah, with Sarah in turn resenting Hagar. (see Genesis 16:1-6) The conflict between Hagar and Sarah would never cease from that time onward, creating no small-measure of conflict in Abraham's home - proving among other things the unbiblical and non-beneficial nature of polygamy.  The boiling point would be reached thirteen years later in Genesis 21 with Sarah (provoked by Ishmael's relentless treatment of Isaac) urging Abraham to compel Hagar and her son Ishmael to leave.  And so they leave and are outcasts. 

Such a series of events were undoubtedly fraught with turmoil and the fear of whether or not God would keep His promise of an ultimate descendant to Abraham. In both Genesis 16 and Genesis 21 we see the mysterious figure of the Angel of the Lord appear and discover the following truths about Him: 

1. Appears at the right time. Genesis 16:7; Genesis 21:17
The first thing we notice about the appearance of the Angel of the Lord is that He appears at the right time. Here in Genesis 16 and 21, Hagar at both times is on the run with her son to escape the scorn of an angry Sarah. Both times it seems as if both Hagar and Ishmael are going to perish.  Hagar, whose name in the Hebrew comes from a root meaning "to forsake, to flee, to wander" is in the greatest of need.  The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible notes: "It is amazing how often the appearance of the 'Angel of the Lord' marked a turning point in history, or sparked the innovation of some project with long-lasting consequences."1

The Angel of the Lord appearing at the right time in Hagar's life foreshadows another incident in which Jesus would meet with the woman at the well in John 4. Theologian Dr. Sinclair Ferguson made the observation in a sermon one time that what Jesus was doing in Genesis 16 with Hagar was almost like a test run for what He really wanted to do later on in ministering to people like the woman at the well.   Galatians 4:4 reminds us that the Son came in human flesh in the fullness of time.  No doubt the Son's pre-incarnate (before the flesh) appearances as the Angel of the Lord would foreshadow His ultimate timing as the Messiah, the sin bearer, God incarnate.

But why Hagar? Why would the Son make such a special appearance to this slave woman and her son? What could be the possible benefit to preserving both she and her son? Two observations that may shed light on the significance of the Angel of the Lord first appearing to Hagar.  First, if Hagar and Ishmael would had died, prophecy and God's Ultimate will for Israel and the middle east would had been interrupted.  God's plans for Israel's future restoration includes the hostilities and pressure that would be brought on by the conflict between the descendants of Isaac (Israel) and those of Ishmael (the Arab nations). All that is going on over in the middle East today is a result of the events and prophetic predictions of both Genesis 16 and 21.

But there is a second significance to the Angel of the Lord's appearance to Hagar and her son - to show His power to save.  Hagar bears witness to the fact of the Angel's Deity and saving power by the names she ascribes to the well of water provided by Him.  Genesis 16:13 states - Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered."  So from the Angel of the Lord's ability to appear at the right time, we can see the first parallel and proof that this is an appearance of the Divine Son before the flesh, since in His incarnation and New Testament ministry, He did the same.  But notice a second truth about the Angel of the Lord, and how we see Jesus...

2. Brings forth Divine words. Genesis 16:8-12; 21:18
Genesis 16:10-12 is a prophecy spoken directly by the Angel of the Lord to Hagar.  The Prophecy, as we already alluded to earlier, would lay out the prophetic destiny of Ishmael's descendants in relationship to those of the Son of promise.  Hagar then identifies the Angel of the Lord as none other than Jehovah Himself.  Whenever you go throughout the rest of scripture, you will find the prophetic formula: "it is written" or "thus saith the Lord" as indicative of Divine utterance.  

When the Son incarnate, Jesus Christ, began His first sermon (the Sermon on the Mount) in Matthew 5-7, a third phrase was uttered from His lips that revealed Divine authority.  In His teaching, Jesus told the crowds of how they "heard it said" from the Jewish traditions such and such, but then Jesus said next: "But I saw to you" (Matthew 5).  That phrase "But I say to you" is equal in authority to the "it is written" and "thus says the Lord" statements.  By the time Jesus finished His opening sermon, Matthew 7:28-29 records: "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes."

Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, in some of the other occasions we see the Angel of the Lord, He speaks Divine words.  For example, His speaking forth from the burning bush to Moses in Exodus 3 reveals that He is Jehovah, Yahweh, I AM who I AM.  That same title "I am" is spoken by Jesus about Himself is the basis for the seven "I am" statements throughout John's gospel.  When Jesus appeared in the Old or New Testament, before the flesh as the Angel of the Lord or in the flesh as God incarnate, He would bring forth Divine words and appear at just the right time.  But notice one more parallel, one more truth about the Angel of the Lord...   

3. Clearly is God revealed. Genesis 16:13-15; 21:19-21
By now it is obvious in today's post that this writer is identifying the Angel of the Lord as an Old Testament, Pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. We also know from Hagar's specific statements in Genesis 16 that she really believed she saw Yahweh, God Himself. Hebrews 1:1-2 aids us in making these connections: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Jesus says of course in John 14:9 "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father".  

The question of course is: does the New Testament and Old Testament alike draw a straight line directly from the Angel of the Lord to Jesus Christ as being one and the Same person? Yes it does. 

Consider for a moment Jacob's historic wrestling match with the mysterious "man" of Genesis 32:24-32. After that match Jacob calls the place where they wrestled :"Peniel" in recognition of the fact He saw God face to face and lived to tell about it. (Genesis 32:30)  Draw the line from Genesis 32 to what we read in Hosea 12:4 - "Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed;He wept and sought His favor.
He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us". The text unmistakably calls the mysterious opponent of Jacob "The Angel" and identifies that personage as God.  Now connect the dots once more to 2 Corinthians 4:6 "
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."  Thus the connection is complete: Jacob saw God's face in Genesis 32, with what Hosea 12 describes as "the Angel" and who now being incarnate has a face in which we see God in human flesh in 2 Corinthians 4:6.

The Bible's internal logic dictates that we interpret the Angel of the Lord to be none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. When you meet the Angel of the Lord throughout the Old Testament, you are getting a glimpse into the pre-incarnate life of the Divine Son - Jesus Christ. What the Angel of the Lord did in the Old Testament we can say points us to what God in human flesh set out to do, did and still does in the New Testament:

1. Appear at the right time
2. Brings Divine words
3. Clearly reveals God

1. Merrill C. Tenney, editor. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Volume 1. Zondervan. 1976. Page 163

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wowed dedication to Jesus Christ

Revelation 5:8 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

In yesterday's post we surveyed all of the passages in Revelation that speak about Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.  We noted nearly thirty such passages and noted the following characteristics of the Lamb of God in Revelation:
1. Jesus Christ - Saving Lamb of God
2. Jesus Christ - Sovereign Lamb of God
3. Jesus Christ - Soon Coming Lamb of God

In today's post we will narrow our focus to Revelation 4:11-5:12.  Whenever I read through Revelation 4-5, two words come to mind in reference to the activities of worship around the throne of God and the Lamb: the worshippers are dedicated and wowed by God and the Lamb.  All the time we here in the church of how much we as Christians need to be dedicated.  It is assumed that the more work you do for the Kingdom, the more dedicated you will be to the King.  Yet so often, people get burned out and then we wonder what happened?  I believe we can discover the secret to recapturing  here on earth what is a 24/7 reality in the third Heaven: Being wowed by Jesus translates into dedication to Jesus. How can we as born-again Christians grasp the need to have wowed dedication to the Lamb of God?  We will note the following ideas in terms of being wowed by Jesus, the Lamb of God through the acrostic "wow":

Worth of Jesus is infinite.  Rev 4:11; 5:11-14
Owns everything. Revelation 5:1-14
Will you respond in to His infinite worth and ownership?

How we answer that final question at salvation, and how we continue to answer it in our Christian growth will determine whether our dedication is merely work or stems from our being wowed by the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  So let us begin noting first of all that the Lamb of God's....

Worth of Jesus is infinite.    Rev 4:11; 5:11-14
Revelation 4:11 states - Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”  This verse gives us the official definition of worth in the passage.  The word "worthy" in all of the various Greek dictionaries speaks of "appraising, setting a value, weightiness".  To illustrate, what value would you place on your house? That depends.  The worth ascribed to a home by the owner is bound to be more ( or sometimes less) than the value ascribed to the same dwelling by a realtor.  Worth is measured by standards of men in such instances. How would you rate the worth of time spent with your spouse or child? Can such experiences be assigned values of worth? If you are willing to give up more to spend time with your spouse or child than you would in your home, then you have stated by your actions that your family is more "worthy". Sometimes too worth is measured by what a given person or object can accomplish.  Therefore a farm tractor is worth more to a farmer than a sports car because of its ability to get work done in the field, even though the car may be more expensive or more popular to drive.  

We use various scales to determine the "worthiness" of objects or people.  But now when you consider John's definition of worth in Revelation 4:11, the worth of God is infinite.  God in the Person of the Father is viewed infinite and in a separate category by Himself in Revelation 4.  Whenever you come to Revelation 5, the focus shifts to God in the Person of the Son - called by the name "The Lamb of God". How worthy is the Lamb of God? Whenever you compare Revelation 4:11 to Revelation 5:11-14, you discover how worth the Lamb of God is:

Revelation 4:11               Revelation 5:11-12
The Father's worth     Lamb of God's Worth
Worthy to...                   Worthy to...
1. Receive power           1. Receive Power
2. Glory & Honor            2. Glory & Honor

Though The Father (4:11) and Son (the Lamb - 5:12-13) are distinct, yet they share the same undivided and glorious nature as One Holy God.  Furthermore, Revelation 5:13b states concerning The Father and the Lamb of God - “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”  Notice the text: blessing, honor, glory and dominion are in the singular and are shared equally and infinitely by the Lamb and the Father (along with the Spirit) as One Eternal Triune God.  

The logic of John is inescapable: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is infinitely worthy.  Note the logic of the passage below:

-Major Premise: God has infinite Worth (4:11)
-Minor Premise: The Lamb has infinite worth
-Therefore: The Lamb is God along with the Father

No matter which standard you use, the worth of the Lamb of God is infinite, off the scale and incapable of exaggeration.  The more we grasp this first truth, the less trouble we will have in worshipping and praise the Lamb of God. But lets note secondly how we can be wow'd by the Lamb of God, namely this Lamb of God....

Owns everything.  Revelation 5:1-14
Revelation 5:1-2 states - "I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”  When we say that the Lamb of God owns everything, we make such a statement as a result of the argument of Revelation 5:1-10. 

The big question of course needing to be answered is: "what exactly is the double-sided scroll/book which is in the right hand of the Father?"  Commentator Steve Gregg records this observation from other interpreters: "But what is this remarkable scroll? It is nothing less than the title deed to earth itself."1 Gregg then goes onto comment later on: Under Jewish law, real estate that had been forfeited by a man could be redeemed (bought back) by any near kinsmen (Lev 25:25).  To redeem the earth, forfeited by man, the redeemer must be a kinsman (hence a man, not an angel) and must come forward with the purchase price in hand-something that no one in the universe could do except Jesus (see 1 Peter 1:18-19).2 In reading other commentaries over the years, the scroll which John saw would had contained a summary of the contents on the outside, with the full contents on the inside.  In keeping with the custom of that day, the seals would have to be broken in various stages of the unfurling of scroll which would had been between 15-30 feet in length.  Truly then the writing on both the front and back of this scroll signifies the utter completeness of the judgments to follow in Revelation 6-19 and the fulfillment thereof in Revelation 21-22.

Whenever you consider the identity of the scroll, we can then understand why John wept like he did when the search was on to find anyone worthy to break the seals.  The scroll itself is the title deed to earth, the sum of all Divine promise, providence and prophecy.  If no one can be found to break the seals and unfold the scroll, every promise, prophecy and Providence itself is proven jeopardized. No man on earth can do it, nor angel, nor demon.  No created thing is worthy.  Less God in human flesh intervenes, all is lost. 

However we read these words in Revelation 5:5 "and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” In Revelation 5:6-8 we see the Lamb of God come to the Father and take the scroll that is rightfully His.  The Lamb of God by right owns everything.  

Whenever you arrive at Revelation 5:9-10, the four living creatures and the 24 elders all sing of the infinite worth of the Lamb, with verse 10 not only expressing the Lamb's right of ownership to everything, but also that when He returns to this planet, He will rule and reign as a matter of fact.  

With the scroll in Jesus' hand in John's vision, the reality of the vision of Revelation 4-5 deals with a both present and not yet truth.  Presently Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling as King over the church and by right the Supreme owner of all things. Satan currently exercises jurisdiction over the world and its inhabitants, however he is given only temporary control.  The true and ultimate ownership of all things being in Jesus' hands is a matter of right, however when He returns, what is now questioned by some in the creation will become evident to all. God will take every question mark surrounding Jesus' right to ran and turn them into exclamation points expressing the fact of His reign! Revelation 11:15 perfectly explains what will occur once the seals of the scroll have been broken:  “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”

So we have seen the worth of the Lamb of God to be infinite and that He owns everything. However in order to be wowed to dedication to the Lamb of God, you need to answer the following question:

Will you respond to His infinite worth and ownership?
The ultimate will of God has been revealed in the sacred scripture of Revelation 5.  The worth of Jesus, the Lamb of God, is uncontestable.  The ownership of Jesus Christ over all things is undeniable. They are rights which are soon to be made visible facts.  Just because such truths are not evident right now does not evacuate them of their truth nor reality: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God is worth infinite value and owns everything.  My question to you: have you responded to His worth and ownership? Are you responding as a Christian in increasing measure to His worth and ownership?  How you answer such questions determines whether or not you will be truly wowed by the Lamb of God.  Only supernatural faith, wrought by the Spirit to be received by the heart can truly say: Wow!

I love how the great preacher W.A Criswell brings his sermon on this very text to a close: 
"And there followed Him in heaven these, His righteous ones, His redeemed ones, His saints as they entered into their lost and purchased possession.“And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne.”[Revelation 5:7] 

That is the greatest act in all of the story of God’s creation. That is the greatest act in the Apocalypse. And that the greatest act in the history of mankind. And he came to take the book. He lifted the title deed of forfeiture to give back to us our lost inheritance. In that act is the answer to the prayer of all of the saints through all of the ages.

And in that act is the judgment of God upon sin, and upon Satan, and upon death, and upon the grave, and upon hell! And, in that act is cast out all of these who would deny to us what God purposed for us when He saw us in the beginning and before the foundation of the earth. Weep not! Weep not. Behold! Behold. And, he saw our Savior who is also our Lord and our coming King. Behold! Lift up your hearts, lift up your face, lift up your eyes, lift up your soul. Behold! 

And, beyond the grave, there is Jesus, the Lord of life. And, beyond our tears, there is Jesus, the God of all comfort. And, beyond the heartaches and the heartbreaks and the despairs of this life, there is the King of Glory with gifts in His hand. Behold. Behold. That God would help a man preach, say things as they ought to be said, present it as it ought to be presented, describe it as it really is."

1. Steve Gregg. Revelation - Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Nelson. 1997. Page 93 

2. Steve Gregg. Revelation - Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Nelson. 1997. Page 95


Friday, October 25, 2013

God's Awesome Lamb in Revelation

Revelation 5:6 "And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth."

Author Ann Spangler has this to note about the significance of the lamb in the Bible: "To the Jews the lamb represented innocence and gentleness. Because the sacrifice was meant to represent the purity of intention of the person or people who offered it, lambs had to be without physical blemishes."1  In thumbing through a Bible concordance that lists the scriptures where every word occurs, I discovered that the word "lamb" occurs nearly 75 times in the Old Testament, with one reference undoubtedly predicting the lamb-like character of Jesus in Isaiah 53:7.

When you come to the New Testament, Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God is mentioned twice in the Gospels (John 1:29,36), once in Acts 8:32, once in the epistles in 1 Peter 1:19 and nearly thirty times in the book of Revelation. In today's post I want us to consider Jesus Christ the Lamb of God in the Book of Revelation. Why Revelation? Two reasons: First the sheer amount of times we find Jesus referred to as the Lamb and secondly the main point of Revelation as being "the revelation of Jesus Christ". So what do we learn about Jesus Christ the Lamb of God in the book of Revelation?  Note the following three headings that summarize all of the verses in Revelation that mention Jesus as the Lamb of God...

1. Saving Lamb.  Revelation 5:6,12; 7:14; 12:11; 13:8; 15:3

2. Sovereign Lamb. Revelation 5:8,12,13; 6:1,16; 7:9,10,12

3. Soon Coming Lamb. Revelation 13:8; 14:1,4,10; 17:14; 19:7,9; 21:14,22,23; 22:1-3

Jesus Christ, the Saving Lamb
Dr. John MacArthur notes this about the Lamb's saving activity in Revelation: "At first glance it seems a disastrous mismatch to pit a lamb against a dragon (12:9) and the hordes of hellish locusts (9:3), frogs (16:13), and human soldiers (19:19) who follow the dragon.  But this Lamb is more than just a willing sacrificial offering for sin; He is also a Lion and the 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords' (19:16). He has already defeated Satan (1 John 3:8; cf John 12:31;16:11; Rom 16:20; Heb 2:14) and his forces (Col 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22) at the cross and is about to consummate that victory."2  As you survey some of the scriptures concerning Jesus the saving Lamb, here are some of the details you discover:

-Revelation 5:6 shows Him as central 
-Revelation 5:12 reveals He is worthy 
-Revelation 7:14 His blood washes sin away
-Revelation 12:14 He is the source of victory
-Revelation 13:8 He has a book in which every child of God's name has been written 

So Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation is the Saving Lamb, but notice also how...

Jesus Christ is the Sovereign Lamb.
Dr. W.A Criswell gives the following insight into Jesus as the Sovereign Lamb in Revelation: "The Lamb slain standing. There Christ, the Lamb of God, stands, in the midst of the throne, preparing to receive the sovereignty of God's universe; standing on the basis of His sacrifice, having identified Himself with us as our kinsman-redeemer; standing to take the purchased possession and to cast our the interloper, the dragon."3 Jesus Christ as the Saving Lamb is so named because of what He did on behalf of sinners on the cross.  However Jesus Christ as the Sovereign Lamb is Who He has been from before the foundation of the World.  There has never been a time when Jesus Christ was never the Sovereign Lamb. Revelation 13:8 proves this observation: "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (NKJV). The following passages in Revelation paint for us in vivid color this Sovereign Lamb:

-Revelation 5:8 The people bow before Him
-Revelation 5:12-13 He is fully Divine
-Revelation 6:1,16 He possess the power of final judgment
-Revelation 7:9,10,12 He is powerful enough to save His people

As John meshes together the Sovereignty and Saving power of the Lamb, we are reminded too that even though Jesus Christ as the saving lamb accomplished salvation in history on the cross, such salvation was planned before creation. So we have seen Jesus Christ the saving and Sovereign Lamb in the book of Revelation.  Notice one more designation...

Jesus Christ - The Soon Coming Lamb
What the Holy Ghost does in Revelation is to add together the Saving and Sovereign activities of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God in a final crescendo that result in us seeing the fact He is the Soon coming Lamb.  Out of the three designated categories we have pointed out today about the Lamb of God in Revelation, none dominate more than the fact He is the Soon coming Lamb.

-Revelation 14:1,4,10 He is coming to redeem Israel and judge the unbelieving world
-Revelation 17:11,14 The Lamb will defeat the beast or Anti-Christ and his world forces.  
-Revelation 19:7,9 The Lamb will have a meal with His people, the church, following His catching away of them  
-Revelation 21:14,22,23; 22:1-3 Here we see the Lamb of God in the New Heavens and new Earth. In these last visions, Jesus Christ has come, reigned for 1,000 years and will forever be central to the worship of God's people who were chosen, who freely believed on Him. 

This quick tour of Revelation in regards to Jesus Christ being the Lamb of God aimed to unfold three main truths that I hope have excited you more about Jesus Christ than ever before:
1. Jesus Christ, The Saving Lamb.  
2. Jesus Christ, The Sovereign Lamb. 
3. Jesus Christ, The Soon Coming Lamb. 

1. Ann Spangler. Praying the Names of Jesus, Zondervan. 2006. Page 80

2. John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11. Moody. 1999. Page 168

3. W.A. Criswell. Expository Sermons on Revelation - Volume 3. Zondervan. 1966. Page 73