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Posts Tagged ‘John’

Here’s how I chose to invite friends to study the Book of Revelation with me:

Humans are fascinated with the end of the world. We see this fascination everywhere. Alien invasions, Godzilla attacks, nuclear holocausts, and meteor strikes are only a small selection of our disaster movies that cinema enthusiasts relish. Even when real disasters strike, we have an uncanny knack for finding comfort in our apocalyptic entertainment and millennial charts. This appears odd at the outset. But is it, really?

Do we read books on the end of the world because we wish demise upon ourselves? Are we really that sick? Or, do we somehow believe that the end, whenever it comes, is not actually the end? The Bible speaks of the end times in great detail. But, the message seems awfully obscure to most of us. That complicates things. It seems too confusing to understand, at least for the most part. Yet we want to know. We want to know what will happen. We want to know, is the end really the end? Will we somehow triumph? Will death have the final say?

We naturally refuse to believe that kind of horrific idea, and say, death will surely not win.

This is because Christians are an incredibly hopeful people. It is built into our eschatology. We believe in all of God’s promises. We believe Jesus will return and reign at the end. We believe evil will be defeated and all wickedness will be destroyed, cast into the lake of fire.

And, we believe that the blessings Jesus brought with him at his first coming will be increased greatly when he returns. This is what theologians call the “already” and “not yet” theme of the kingdom of God in which we presently live. But that is simply the surface of what Scripture says about the future. We know it is difficult to understand what the Bible says about the end of the age and the age to come. We wonder, for example, will there be a millennium? If so, what will it be and when will it come? Will there be a “secret” rapture? If not, when will it be? There are certainly options for a framework of the key end times’ texts: premillennial, postmillennial, amillennial. But which, if any, are correct? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses?

That is why books on the end times are written, at least the good ones. But we want to know what God’s book says about these things. If we can’t understand everything, what does God really want us to know right now, while we await the day of his return?

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It is with that introduction that I invited friends into my home to study this difficult book. I’m curious as to how you might invite friends over to study the Book of Revelation? As for the study itself, my goal will be to help my friends see Revelation in terms of its present usefulness to Christians, much in the same way it would have been encouraging, useful, and needed among the churches it was originally addressed to. So, we will leave behind the charts and focus of the text itself. We’ll use the help of study Bibles and commentaries to help us as much as they can. And when we get to incredibly debated topics along the way, I’ll explain the different options and say which one I hold or lean toward.

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In my previous post, I looked at Moses, Malachi, and Matthew on the doctrine of election.  We saw that the God’s electing choice in each of these biblical authors’ writting is not based on foreseen faith but rather simply on God’s love and soveriegn choice.  Today I want to challenge you to hear out what Jesus says in the gospel of John concerning election.  Again, I am shooting for a simple, straightforward reading of these texts–I do not think these are difficult to understand–they may be difficult to accept, but they are clear and speak for themselves, so I have kept my commentary to a minimum.

John 5:20-21 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

The Son gives new life, eternal life to whom he will.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Many say that this verse is about service and not salvation.  But you cannot separate bearing fruit from being a believer.  There is no such thing in Scripture as a believer who does not bear fruit.

John 10:25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Jesus says you do not believe because they are not part of his flock.  In contrast those who are Jesus’ sheep hear his voice and Jesus knows them and they follow him.  Notice the text does NOT say you are not of my flock because you do not believe.  It clearly says that the reason these people do not believe is because they are not part of his flock.  And it’s worth noting that these people are Jews!  These are Jews that Jesus says are not elect.

John 17:1-2 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Verse 2 clearly states that God has given Jesus authority over all flesh.  Its worth stopping there and simply noting that Jesus has authority over all human beings to do with them what he will.  If we go further, we see that Jesus clearly claims that this authority is authority in giving eternal life to those whom the father has given him.

John 17:6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Jesus manifests God’s name to those whom the Father gave Him out of the world.   They were God’s and God gives them to Jesus and they have kept God’s word.  Again the Father is choosing and giving and we don’t have people choosing.  If it were up to man to choose God based on some offer wouldn’t we see some indication of that in these sayings of Jesus where he is clearly talking about those who will be saved?  John 17 continues with such language:

John 17:9-12 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Again, it is those who the Father has given to the Son that the Son prays for.  Jesus is glorified in these ones who the Father has given him.  Further Jesus keeps these ones and guards them so that they will not be lost.  Jesus’ prayer will be answered.  Jesus will keep those who believe to the very end.

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Again, it is those the Father has given to the Son who will see His glory.

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What better question to pose to Immanuel than “What are you doing here?”  As Christians we speak a lot about who we believe Jesus to be and we should.  But why has Jesus come from heaven to earth?  In a series of posts, I am going to seek to simply let Jesus answer this question for himself.  Most people with a little Bible knowledge are aware of the “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel, statements which display to us who Jesus is, but it seems most people are far less familiar with Jesus’ “I have come statements” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (these three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels–this is simply because of their similarities) which display to us why Jesus came to earth.

It is important that we understand both who Jesus is and why He came to earth.  In fact, even in calling Jesus Immanuel at the begging of this post, I was making a statement about who I believe Jesus to be.  “Immanuel” means “God with us”–meaning that Jesus is God with us (Isa. 7:14; 8:8; Matt. 1:25).  Though reigning in heaven above, God has in some sense come down to us, to be with us, to dwell with us, speak to us, live for us, and finally die and rise again for us. However, I believe that all of these acts were not ultimately for us.  I believe that Jesus came to earth, lived, walked, died, and rose again ultimately for the glory of God. Similarly, you and I were created to glorify God–to know Him, love Him, enjoy Him, and worship Him.  However, we have utterly failed to live up to the purpose for which we were created.  Jesus has not failed–He alone has lived up to the purpose for which He came to earth.

In anticipation of the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I have come into this hour.  Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28).  I think the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation, his taking on of human flesh, was ultimatly to glorify God.

It is important that we speak of Jesus “having come” to earth rather than “becoming” or “having been created.”  He was not created, but there was a point in time in which He took on human flesh.  Before He took on human flesh, He was with the Father for all eternity.  He is the great “I Am” of Exodus 3:14 (John 8:58).  Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30; 17:11).  In fact, Jesus actively created the World alongside the Father and everything “was created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16).

In fact, Jesus’ “I have come” statements imply a prior existence in heaven.  These statements refer to having come from the heavenly sphere to earth.  In each of Jesus’ “I have come” statements, we see the formula of “I have come” + a purpose statement, i.e. “in order to seek and save the lost” or “not to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them” (Luke 19:10; Matt. 5:17).

Some scholars have argued that these “I have come” statements simply state where Jesus physically traveled from, i.e. from Galilee to Samaria or some such location.  There are two major problems with such an interpretation.

First, it would be absolutely absurd to say something like “I have come from Galilee to seek and save the lost” or better yet “I have come from Samaria to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already kindled” (I made up thes locations, the latter is taken from Luke 12:49).  Jesus’ “I have come” statements all have far-reaching implications–cosmic, world transforming, paradigm shifting implications like “casting fire on the earth” and fulfilling the whole of the law and prophets!

Secondly, there is no human Old Testament figure or early Jewish figure who spoke with the forumula of “I have come” + a statement of purpose in the cosmic way that Jesus does.  None of the Old Testament prophets started their prophetic ministry by proclaiming to Israel, “I have come in order to . . .”  Where we do find this “I have come” + purpose formula is proceeding from the mouths of angels (Daniel 9:22-23; 11:2; Numbers 22:32).  Each of these angels, Gabriel in Daniel and the Angel of the Lord’s Host in Numbers are speaking of having come from heaven in order to inform/help Daniel and Joshua respectively.  This “I have come” + purpose formula is also found in some early Jewish literature and each time it is used by angelic beings but  never by humans.

So when Matthew, Mark, and Luke cite Jesus’ “I have come” statements, they are implying that Jesus, like these angels, has come from a prior existence in heaven to earth in order to do certain things.  So each of these statements will reveal to us the many interrelated reasons why God the Son took on human flesh and left His heavenly abode to dwell with us for a time.

I want to look at 10 such statements in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt., Mark, and Luke).  In two of the statements Jesus says, “The Son of Man came to . . . ” rather than “I have come to . . . .”  “Son of Man” is a significant designation that Jesus gives to himself with important Old Testament precedent. In my next post, I will look at two questions asked by demons of Jesus, which also utilize a very similar formula to the “I have come” + purpose formula.  In fact what the demons fear that Jesus has come to do, has far reaching implications and reveal some of the cosmic implications of Christ’s coming.

These posts are going to be theological in nature and they are going to stretch what you think about Jesus and why He came.  They may be tough to understand, so feel free to ask questions–I am not an expert in the feild of gospel studies by any means, but I will do my best to answer any questions you might have.

Finally I should mention that the idea for this series of posts came from Dr. Simon Gathercole’s book, The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  You can also download or stream lectures by Dr. Gathercole on Jesus’ preexistence at Southern Seminary’s website, just scroll down to the 2004 Gheen’s Lectures–if you want to download them, just click on the link and select “save target as” or “save link as.”

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Responding to the Bread of Life is a series of posts on the reaction of the Twelve to Jesus in John 6:60-71.

Introduction

Jesus’ Bread of Life sermon is one that triggers a crisis that drives away some and proves the commitment of others. So, let us ask a few key questions for this post.

Who is Jesus? Is he just the son of Joseph, a first century carpenter? Or, is he Lord and Savior? What does history say? John tells us Jesus performed many signs (John 2:11).

Jesus also provoked strong opinions just about anywhere he traveled. He fed a hungry mob, healed a nobleman’s son, cleansed the temple, and even walked on water. Thus, many did say of him, “This is the prophet!”

Others hated Jesus. For example, John tells us the Jews were seeking to kill him “because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God” (5:18).

So, who is Jesus? Is he just flesh and bone? Is he a liar? Or, is he truly the Bread of Life?

Historical Context

The title of the Fourth Gospel says that John is the author. Other clues identify this John as (1) an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry, (2) one of the Twelve (21:20) and, (3) John the son of Zebedee.

John, along with Peter, ministered to the church in Jerusalem following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 3:1) until, as tradition suggests, he left for Ephesus before the destruction of Jerusalem. Irenaeus relays that John published his Gospel “during his residence at Ephesus in Asia” ca. A.D. 80-85 (Against Heresies 3.1.1).

Purpose

Jesus is the long-expected Messiah and Son of God who has the words of eternal life. John tells us he performed many signs and wonders and “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).

Literary Context

The two main sections of the Gospel of John are often called the Book of Signs (1:19-12:50) and the Book of Glory (13:1-20:30).

Interestingly, John does not contain the nativity. Instead he complements the Synoptics with a prologue of the eternal nature of Christ, the Word who became flesh. Jesus is light shining into the world’s darkness.

The text for this series relates the response of Jesus’ disciples to the Bread of Life discourse. Briefly, John has selected a few signs to display the glory of Jesus as the Son of God in the Book of Signs. Up to this pericope, Jesus’ popularity was billowing. Just the day before, Jesus fed a hungry crowd in Galilee.

But they did not get the sign. “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (6:14-15).

The next day, Jesus told the same crowd, “I am the Bread of Life” (6:35). To many, Jesus’ sermon was a hard saying. Such hard sayings sparked the Jews to grumble about Jesus. Of course, their mounting opposition to Jesus was not new. Earlier in Jerusalem many Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because he was “breaking the Sabbath” and “calling God his own Father” (5:18).

To put it another way, John relates the signs of Jesus to his readers that they might have life in his name. Yet it is the Spirit who gives life in Jesus, the flesh is no help at all (6:63). Therfore, to some Jesus has the words of eternal life. To others, Jesus is a stumbling block (6:60).

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Well it’s the day we have all been waiting for or the day we have all been dreading-the day we get to head out the door and cast our vote for the next president of our country. This election has been reported to be the most important election in the history of our country. I suppose there is some truth to that claim, however it seems that each successive election is the most important election in our nation’s history. Things undoubtedly will change in our country, no matter who is elected president and that is in some ways a troubling thought, however, there are some things that will not change-things that no president can touch, things that ought to give us purpose and joy for all eternity.

I don’t intend to diminish the importance of this election, but no matter what transpires in the next 24 hours, there are a few constants that we can be sure will not change. First, God is still sovereign and working all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:13). Second, Christ has overcome the curse of the fall for all who would believe and as a result nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:37-39). Thirdly, Christ will return and gather all his children to himself and we will be with Him in glory (Col. 3:4; 2 Cor. 3:11; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Have you ever read the book of Revelation? I have, more than once, and I still am not sure exactly how things are going to end, but one thing is for sure-Christ is going to win and that means that everyone who has believed on him will win as well. We will reign with Him, we will be with Him for eternity and everything that has gone terribly wrong in this sin-filled world will be made right. And most importantly we will see our beautiful savior in all His glory unfettered by the bonds of sin and we will be filled with unspeakable joy for all eternity!

This reality of Christ’s return to finally bring the world under his eternal reign and rule is the reality that drove Paul to conclude that, to die and be with Christ “is far better” (Phil. 1:23). When Jesus told the apostle John, “Surely I am coming soon,” John responded by saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

As I have kept an eye on the ongoings of this election, I have become increasingly cynical. No matter who is elected, I don’t feel that my values will be upheld. What I have found most encouraging in the midst of my cynicism is a hefty dose of Revelation! Let me explain. The first three chapters of Revelation are composed of letters to seven different churches. In fact Revelation was written in large part to encourage these churches. Many of these churches were facing severe persecution. Persecution of the type that the United States knows little of. In Revelation 1-3, John repeatedly writes to “the one who conquers” or “the one who overcomes.” Why does John do this? He wants to encourage these Christians to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of persecution. He wants to remind them that our treasure is not on this earth but in heaven.

Perhaps we need that reminder as Christians on election day. No matter what happens today, our purpose as Christians, to worship Christ and make him known, will not change. The call to go and make disciples of all nations will not change. I strongly doubt, no matter what the results of this election, that we will face the kind of persecution that the seven churches in Revelation faced, but nonetheless we can learn from John’s encouragement to them to overcome, to conquer, to trust Christ and be faithful to Him no matter what the circumstances.

So what should we do on election day? By all means pray and vote, but perhaps more importantly, I suggest we worship the Lord sitting on His throne. I suggest we make plans to have dinner with our lost neighbors-as my pastor encouraged our congregation on Sunday, invite them to “come and see” what we are all about! I suggest we take time this evening to pray with our families, not just for our nation but for each other that we would each grow in our love for Christ and be strengthened in our fight against the flesh.

If tomorrow you wake up and your candidate has lost-do not despair but as one who overcomes, pray, share the good news of Jesus Christ, and worship the King who was and is and is to come (Rev. 1:4).

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Belief comes from hearing the living Word of God preached concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 10:17). I think that is agreeable. In a related way, the careful exposition of the Word of God is desparately needed in the Church today. These are things we should not neglect. So, how should we read the living Word of God? Should we follow the storyline on its terms?

The following exerpts are from Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels. In the two sections, Dr. Strauss helps us see how we should go about reading and expositing the four Gospels.

Reading “Vertically”: Following the Storyline

The four Gospels record seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Many sermons have been preached on these seven “words” of Jesus. While insight can be gained from this approach, the danger is that we will miss each writer’s unique contribution. No Gospel records more than three of these sayings, and each has its own perspective on the crucifixion. In Mark, for example, Jesus says only one thing from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forksaken me?” The crucifixion is a dark and foreboding scene. The narrator intentionally draws the reader into Jesus’ experience of isolation and dispair. Introducing Luke’s reassuring, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” or John’s traiumphant “It is finished” misses Mark’s point.

Similarly, throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus offers God’s love and forgiveness to sinners. Jesus’prayer life and intimacy with the Father is also a frequent theme. It is a fitting climax, therefore, that in Luke, Jesus continues to offer forgiveness to sinners from the cross (“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”; “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”) and expresses his trust in and dependence on the Father (“Father, into your hand I commit my spirit”). To introduce Mark’s statement of isolation and despair risks distorting Luke’s portrait of Jesus. Each Gospel has a story to tell. By reading vertically, we hear that story on its own terms.

Reading “Horizontally”: Comparing Their Accounts

While there is a danger in harmonistically reading one Gospel’s presentation into another, thare are also benefits in comparing their accounts using a “synopsis,” which places the Gospels in parallel columns. By comparing the Gospels, we can identify each writer’s themes and theology. For example, by comparing Luke with Matthew and Mark, we see that Luke often introduces statements about Jesus’ prayer life, revealing his interest in Jesus’ intimacy with the Father. We may call this reading horizontally–comparing the Gospels to discern each Evangelist’s unique theological perspective. 

When is a harmony legitimate? While harmonistically reading the Gospels risks missing each Gospel’s narrative and theological themes, a harmony is beneficial when asking historical questions. The Gospels claim to be historical narratives, and so it is legitimate to investigate them from the perspective of what actually happened. 

Jesus’ trial scene, for example, takes on different contours in each of the four Gospels. While a narrative may ask about the themes of each Gospel writer, the historian asks basic historical questions: What role did the Jewish and Roman authoritites play in the arrest of Jesus? Before whom was he tried. What accusations were made against him? Why was he crucified? The historian’s task is to examine and critique all of the available evidence in order to piece together a credible historical account. Here a harmonistic study is necessary and helpful in order to glean as much information as possible from the available sources. 

Though the Gospels were written at a specific time, in a specific place, and with specific purposes, they are of timeless benefit for the church. The unique unity and diversity of the four Gospels provide the church of all ages with an authoritative and inspired portrait of Jesus Christ.

Mark L. Strauss (Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels, 32-35).

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In this series of posts on Lordship salvation and repentance, I have sought to make clear that the Bible teaches that sinners must both repent and believe in order to be saved. However, an essential objection to the lordship position on repentance remains to be addressed. Non-lordship proponents almost unanimously object to the lordship position on repentance by claiming that the Gospel of John nowhere teaches that repentance is necessary for salvation.[1] Hodges cites John 1:26-27, where John the Baptist compares his baptism with that of Jesus, noting that there is “not a word–not a syllable about repentance.”[2] Hodges proclaims the absence of repentance in John’s Gospel “the death knell for lordship theology,” claiming that “John did not regard repentance as a condition for eternal life . . . if he had he would have said so.”[3]

It has already been adequately shown that the New Testament clearly presents repentance and faith inseparably together as the human responses to the gospel call unto salvation. Hodges fails to address some of the New Testament’s clearest teaching on repentance and faith such as Mark 1:14-15 and Luke 24:46-47. Thus, Hodges leaves open the possibility that John’s Gospel teaches a different soteriology than that of the Synoptics. However, the word repentance “itself does not have to appear for us to see the principle of repentance as part of the message of God-centered evangelism.”[4] Jesus commanded the adulterous woman in John 8 to repent when he told her to “go, and from now on sin no more.”[5] It is difficult to make sense of such a command if the call to repentance is absent from John’s soteriology. In addition, the idea of repentance is present in the Johannine epistles (1 John 3:4-10). Furthermore, repentance is boldly commanded in John’s letters to the churches in Revelation as “the Lord found it necessary to rebuke five out of the seven churches in Asia Minor and to call them to repentance.”[6] John need not be pitted against the Synoptics as repentance plays an essential role in Johannine soteriology.


[1]Chafer, Systematic Theology, 376. Hodges, Absolutely Free!, 147-148. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 97-98.

[2]Hodges, Absolutely Free, 148.

[3]Ibid. 150.

[4]Reisinger, Lord and Christ, 67.

[5]Reisinger, Lord and Christ, 67. Reisinger notes that there are several places in the Synoptics where the word is absent but the idea of repentance is clearly present (c.f. Jesus and the young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 and the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32).

[6]Roberts, Repentance, 37-38. Roberts cites Revelation 2:1-5, 2:12-16, 2:18-22, 3:1-3, 3:14-19, and 3:22.

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