Study & Support GroupsConnect - Learn - Grow
Groups are listed below and are open to all. Let us know which you’d like to be involved in!
More groups can be added based on topics meaningful to you, and we can schedule groups on lunch hours or in the evening after work is done/kids are in bed/families fed… whatever works best for those interested. Groups can start with as few as TWO participants and grow from there!
Open to church, CDC, guests, friends, neighbors and strangers. All are welcome to connect, learn and grow!
If you don’t see something that you’re looking for let us know and we’ll find something in your area of interest. And if you’re new to virtual meetings, don’t worry, it’s not complicated, and we can walk you through the process. You’ll be a pro in no time.
Reach out to Trinity’s Ministry and Communications Coordinator, Chanda Gillenwater, at Chanda.Gillenwater@TrinityDowntown.com or 407-490-7339 (text or call).
Currently Scheduled Groups
Immerse Bible Reading Experience, Book 2: Beginnings
- Book needed, daily readings, eight week plan
- MONDAYS at 7pm with Pastor Doug, via ZOOM.
- Join Zoom Meeting by going to this link:
- Meeting ID: 871 5950 5495
- Passcode: 872275
- More info about ordering, audio book access and supplemental materials can be found HERE
Immerse: Beginnings is the second of six volumes for use in Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience. Beginnings takes the reader on a new and unique journey through the first five books of the Bible: the Pentateuch. In Beginnings readers follow the ancient nation of Israel from its earliest ancestors to the moment it is poised to enter the land God promised them. As God’s covenant community follows the instructions laid out in the Pentateuch, they not only receive God’s blessings but also are uniquely positioned to bring renewal and healing to the world and to show all peoples the true character and nature of God.
- Discussion leader is Norma Smith, contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tuesdays at 1pm, Loggia 3 Classroom, in-person, workbook needed
- Each weekly session is a stand-alone session – so you can join at any time and at any pace!
- Video seminar with experts Each week your GriefShare group will watch a video seminar featuring top experts on grief and recovery subjects. These videos are produced in an interesting television magazine format featuring expert interviews, real-life case studies, dramatic reenactments, and on-location video.
- Support group discussion with focus After viewing the video, you and the other group members will spend time as a support group, discussing what was presented in that week’s video seminar and what is going on in your lives.
- Personal study and reflection During the week you will have the opportunity to use your workbook for further personal study of the grieving process and to help sort out your emotions through journaling. Your group will spend time discussing questions and comments from the workbook study.
Tuesday Morning Women’s Group, “Women of the Word” – WOW
- Book needed $13, weekly reading assignment, jump in anytime
- Tuesdays at 9am, Loggia 3, in-person. Contact Terry at email@example.com to sign up.
“Surrendered” (40 Devotions to Help You Let Go & Live Like Jesus) by Barb Roose.
If you struggle with control, this devotional is for you. Are you in the midst of a hard or heartbreaking season of life? Do you try to control your situation or other people? Do you struggle to let go? …If you answered yes to any of these questions, this forty-day devotional journey is for you. Within these pages, you’re invited to embrace the life-giving power of surrender as you learn to let go and live like Jesus-fully trusting God’s power, presence, promises, and provision for your life.
Sunday Adult Bible Study – Studying Leectionary Readings
Adult Bible Study – IMMERSE Bible Reading Experience – POETS coming up next
- Sunday mornings
- Tuesday morning and evening (Tuesday morning group starts Sept 7)
- Saturday evening
Online/At Your Own Pace
The End Times Series
The End Times Bible Study #1
Welcome to a study of the approaching end of the world. I believe all Bible Study
should begin with prayer. Ask for God’s Spirit to lead and guide you. I have no trouble
telling you I can guarantee that what God says in the Bible is always true. You can’t say
that about any other person. My first bit of advice is don’t snack on the Word of God. Eat
a full meal. What I mean is that too often people want to study a verse or two instead of
larger sections. I will give you a Scripture reading which I encourage you to read out of
your regular devotional Bible. I will not be printing any translation for you. I use the
English Standard Version (ESV). Remember, I welcome questions about our topic or any
Bible or theological question. What I attempt is to answer any questions within 3 days if
it involves our special study or I will inform you if it is to be covered in a future lesson.
Send questions to: StrongInChrist@CFL.rr.com If it is some other Bible or theological
questions, it might take a week for me to respond. As I have told a number of you lately:
I’m not as fast as I used to be and I’m not as slow as I’m going to be.
Read: 2 Peter 3:1–10. Then go back to the beginning and I will take you through
verse by verse or sentence by sentence. The original writings had no verses or spaces
v. 1: In the opening two verses of this chapter, Peter indicates to the reader that he is
once again picking up themes he had mentioned in the first chapter. He stresses the need
to ‘recall’ (verse 2; compare 1:12–13) and to ‘understand’ (verse 3; compare 1:20).
v. 2: Understanding what the Bible says, that is, what the holy prophets have
spoken, and what our Lord and Savior himself has said, will be the only full-proof way of
combating heresy. This was a theme in the first epistle (e.g. 1 Peter 1:10–12; 2:4–12 etc.)
and is a vital message for all churches through the ages. It is assumed that it is through
[the] apostles that we can know exactly and reliably what Jesus had spoken and
vs. 3–4: Of course, the particular words spoken in the past that Peter wishes them to
remember are those relating to the final day of salvation, the “day of the Lord”. Peter
himself clearly lives by the principle he is enunciating. He looks to Scripture and to
apostolic teaching, including his own, as finally authoritative in all matters.
The heretics “scoff” at such teachings. The last days are those days between the first
coming of Christ and the second. On the day of Pentecost Peter himself had used the
prophecy from Joel to indicate that the last days had now come: ‘In the last days, God
says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’ (Acts 2:17; see Joel 2:28–32). From that
time onwards until the day of the Lord, the church would be living in the last days.
As these Christians confront a world scoffing at the notion that Christ will return,
Peter wants God’s people to understand first from Scripture that all this was prophesied.
The prophets had warned of scoffers as did the apostles and even Jesus himself.
“Following their own sinful desires” raises again the issue Peter has addressed
throughout the letter. It is perhaps inevitable that those who mock the Word of God and
deny the return of Christ will also take no notice of the command for holiness, choosing
rather to follow their evil desires.
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell
asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (v. 4). We
now have lived 2000 years since Christ’s first coming. Perhaps it should not surprise us
that the teaching of Christ’s return is mocked in our day and age.
But such mockery started early. Thirty or so years was still a long time. A
generation had passed away in that time. Those who had been household leaders and
political leaders in Jesus’ day, the middle-aged and older, had already died and still he
had not come. Indeed, it is quite possible that ‘the fathers’ of this church, the apostles and
some early leaders who had planted the church had died. So some ask: “Where is this
We must not underestimate the power of this challenge to the Christian faith. It is
easy for a question like this to raise doubts in the mind of even the sincere believer. When
such questions are asked with passion by teachers like those being confronted in this
epistle, the criticism of traditional teaching can seem strong. The only one way to provide
an answer is to trust the promises of God in Scripture and to know that such scoffing will
vs. 5–6: But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens
existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the
world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and
earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly
This is Peter’s last significant comment about the position of the heretics. In a
moment he will turn to draw encouragement for believers from the doctrine of Christ’s
return. At the heart of heretical teaching of any sort is the denial of God’s spoken and
active word. Peter contrasts the way true believers should remember God’s word and the
fact that the heretics forget that word.
Peter argues that these scoffing teachers know the word and have deliberately
forgotten bits that they don’t like or think are irrelevant. That is a problem today. How
often we find Christians today who overlook the bits of Scripture that do not suit what
they want to believe or do not fit with their actions. This was the problem faced by Peter
and the believers in this church.
God’s word cannot be treated as purely theoretical. It is not simply to be reduced to
a set of doctrines that can be accepted or deliberately ignored. It was by his word that the
heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. God’s word doesn’t
just provide us with a doctrine of creation that can be side-stepped, but it actually creates.
‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’ (Genesis 1:3).
It is a word that has brought into being and a word that always fulfils promises as
well as actually making those promises. To say that we believe and trust God’s word must
also directly involve a commitment to the power of that word to bring to pass whatever is
v. 7: This word that has created is also a word that has destroyed. It is vital that we
see the importance of what Peter is saying here: deliberately forgetting the creating word
of God is part and parcel of their attempt to hide the destroying (judging) word of God.
By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. Just as water
had been used in creation at the order of God so it was used in the destruction of the earth
in Noah’s day (see 2:5). God’s word is so active and powerful that he spoke and the
world was destroyed through the great flood (Genesis 6:7; 7:4, 23).
Peter drives home for the believers the quite devastating message that the heretics
who deny Christ’s coming will be judged when he comes. By the same word, that is by
the active word of God, the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for
the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
The applications of these verses to today’s world and even today’s church are
numerous and sadly all too obvious. Heretics have not learned their lesson. Scorn is still
poured on those who believe in God’s word and look forward to a judgment day that will
come as certainly as Noah’s flood happened.
vs. 8–10: As Peter continues to speak to the believers, his dear friends, he reminds
them of another truth. The delay in the return of the Lord does not mean that it will not
happen. God has a different experience of time than we do. But do not forget this one
thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are
like a day.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is
patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. This
shows how we often misunderstand the actions of God because we have listen to what he
Peter has argued that God’s word guarantees the return but, even so, the delay was
as perplexing for believers then as it is today. And so Peter tackles the issue head on,
asking us to bear in mind two points.
1) God’s timing. This point is simple. We should not simply look at time
from our point of view. We need to remember just who this eternal God is before we
jump to conclusions about describing the delay as a ‘long time’.
2) God’s purposes. We need to remember that God’s purposes for the future
do not simply concern judgment and salvation on the last day, but also concern people’s
salvation being worked out right now. If that all takes time, then we can put it down to
God’s patience with sinful people as he desires their repentance.
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day
recalls the words of Psalm 90:4—‘For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that
has just gone by, or like a watch in the night’. Of course Peter is not arguing, as some
have suggested, that wherever we read ‘day’ in the Bible we can substitute ‘a thousand
We cannot, for example, suggest that the six days of creation are in fact to be
understood as 6000 years! Peter’s point is actually much simpler than that. He is asking
his readers to recognize that God is God and we are human beings for whom eighty years
is a life-time!
We need to remember that God may take what seems to us to be an inordinately
long time to fulfil his promises, but then he is God! The fact that he is eternal in his
existence should reinforce this point for us. Peter is not saying that God is somehow
‘beyond’ or ‘outside’ time, as if ‘time’ means nothing to him.
Peter is biblical and not Greek in his thinking. He is not describing God as ‘timeless
and spaceless’ as if we simply have to live with that. Peter’s point is that God himself
does not make plans that have to be fulfilled in a lifetime, for he lives forever. Rather they
will be fulfilled, and they will be fulfilled in history in time, but God views that time
differently from us for whom it rushes by in a few short years. (cf. Psalm 90:10).
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. This is
the issue. God has promised a ‘coming’ (verse 4). Will he keep his word? Time and again
Peter has returned to the issue of God and his word. It is active and powerful. What God
says, happens. He can be trusted and will keep these promises of the day of the Lord
Peter draws upon the Old Testament to make his point by alluding to Habakkuk 2:3
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it
seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
Peter is prepared to admit that there is an apparent delay, but it must be understood
differently. It all has to do with God’s grace and love for people. He is patient with you.
This is how the delay should be viewed, from the perspective of God’s patience as he
provides still further time for repentance, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come
Peter does not accept the mechanistic view of the universe put forward by the false
teachers and so prevalent today. From a Christian perspective the world simply does not
go on forever the same. God is at work in this world. He created it and will bring it to an
end. It has not simply come into being by chance nor will it simply disappear by chance
or even by the will of a human being.
1. One of the most important points is the reminder that we have been been living
in the last days ever since the eternal Son of God entered earth as Jesus. I still hear people
asking, “Are we living in the last days now?” The answer is, “Yes, ever since Jesus was
2. Remember to distinguish between “the last days” and “the last day.” The last day
is judgment day itself. I find many people who are concerned about the warnings of
historic difficulties leading up to judgment day. However, in later lessons in this study
you will find some words of guidance and comfort for living in turbulent times.
3. By the way, since you have lived all of your life “in the last days” it means you
have lived in turbulent times. Yes, sometimes they are greater than others, but turbulent
times are always a part of the last days.
4. What seems to us who live in generational cycles of about 40 years as a long
time waiting for Jesus’ return, is but a short time in eternity time and thinking. The times
are set by God, not us.
5. Notice how quickly false prophets and teachers appear in the history of God
people. This is true of both Old Testament and New Testament times. Their existence
begins with humans “Fall into sin.” (Genesis 3:1–24) The first false prophet is Satan
himself who called God a liar. (Gen. 3:4)
Close with prayer: Pray about God helping you to understand any new insights you
gained in today’s study.
10–29–2020 The End Times Bible Study #2
Remember: Begin with prayer asking the Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible authors to record the words you
read to help you understand the Scriptures.
Before you read our Scripture for today, I suggest reading this short Introduction to our reading: An unusual
question came up amongst the new Christians in Thessalonica (present day Thessaloniki). Some of them had
already died. If they had been practiced the common Greek religious life at that time, they believed the dead
went into a dark underworld from which there was no return. Not yet fully grounded in the Christian faith and
teaching about life after death and the resurrection, they were concerned that those who had already died were
going to miss out on the return of Jesus. While the Greeks did not believe in resurrection (Acts 17:32), the
Christians did. They were confused by their old religious ideas and the resurrection faith of the Christians.
This false impression or false teaching needed to be corrected. False teachers arose very quickly in the Early
Church. But instead of destroying the truth, they only succeeded in causing it to be brought out more clearly and
more powerfully by the apostles. Possibly the false teachers here suggested those who died would not share in
the benefits of Jesus’ coming. If so, this would bring sorrow to the believers who remained alive.
In this kind of sorrow they were coming very close to the black despair and empty hopelessness reflected on the
tombstones of the heathen of the time. Paul wanted them to know the truth that would keep them from that kind
of grief. Christians are not like the heathen who have no hope.
This section reminds us that there are several topics we will have to examine in greater detail. One is “The
Rapture” and another is “The Millennium” which will require a study of “Dispensational Theology.” We will
cover these before the end of our study.
Read 1st Thessalonians 4:13–18. Then study the notes which follow.
v. 13: It is not just Christians who use the word sleep to describe death. A number of the pagan religions of that
time did also. There have always been some who believed that you live and you die and that’s it. There is no
afterlife. There are an increasing number of people who believe that today. The end of this verse is still a
valuable message for us today: we do not sorrow as those who have no hope.”
v. 14: The key to a Christian’s hope is his belief in the fact that Jesus died and rose again. It simply indicates
that as surely as they believed, so surely will the dead believers be with Jesus when He returns. Their belief in
Christ’s death and resurrection was not a mere mental acceptance of the facts, however. It involved a personal
identification with Jesus in His death and resurrection, as pictured in our baptism. Baptism is the drowning of
our sinful nature and a picture of God’s saving work. God used water and the ark to save Noah and his three
sins and their wives. Because of the ark there is a lot of boat language in describing the church building. The
word used to describe the large interior space of the building is “Nave.” (You can see the word Naval in this
v. 15: Paul now outlines some specifics for the congregation to address their concern. He reminds them they
have had a “word from the Lord” about this. Of course, all he wrote in his epistles was by inspiration of the
Holy Spirit. Now Paul makes it clear that those who are alive and remain till the coming of the Lord will not go
ahead of or have any advantage over those who died before Jesus’ return. The fact Paul used “we” in this verse
does not mean he believed he would be alive at the second coming. He simply meant whoever is alive at the
time of Christ’s return.
v. 16: Those who die before the return of Christ will not miss a thing. The Lord will descend from heaven with
a shout or command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. Then the dead in Christ will
immediately rise in response to His command.
v. 17: The moment after the dead arise, those who are alive and remain will join with them to form one great
body. Together we will all be caught up (snatched up in a powerful manner, carried up suddenly in great power)
to meet the Lord (for a meeting with the Lord) in the air. This sudden snatching away to meet the Lord is often
referred to as the “rapture.” You do not hear this term used in Lutheran discussions because of the specific
meaning it has among a number of our fellow Christian.
The rapture is an eschatological concept held by some Christians, particularly within branches of American
evangelicalism, consisting of an end-time event when all Christian believers who are alive, along with
resurrected believers, will rise “in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” In Paul the Apostle’s First Epistle to
the Thessalonians in the Bible, he uses the Greek word ‘harpazo,’ meaning “to snatch away” or “to seize,” and
explains that believers in Jesus Christ will be snatched away from earth into the air. (from Wikipedia.)
Where does the word rapture come from? The Greek was translated into Latin by ‘raptus.” From this comes our
English words rapt and rapture. Today these words usually speak of being carried away emotionally or
spiritually. But one meaning of rapt in current dictionaries is “lifted up and carried away.” Thus some believe it
is perfectly good English to translate this verse, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be rapt (or raptured)
together with them in the clouds.” (I do not agree this is a good way to translate v. 17. They choose it so they
can say that “The Rapture” is in the Bible. However, not one of the major translations and nor any of the lesser
known or used translations that I know translate it that way either. Plus, I find it interesting that John Nelson
Darby who was an Anglo-Irish Bible teacher, one of the influential figures among the original Plymouth
Brethren and the founder of the Exclusive Brethren, and considered to be the father of modern Futurism and
Dispensationalism did NOT translate it that way in his own translation which he published.
Another reason for avoiding the Rapture because it would make the coming of Jesus a second time actually the
third. Paul was just answering the question of the congregation concerned that because some had already died,
they would miss out on the Second Coming of Jesus. They consider it a pre Judgment Day Event. And offered
hope to those Dispensational Christians that they would avoid the tribulation of the end of times.
The teaching on this became popularized in the first publication of the “Left Behind” series in 1995. Left
Behind is a series of Christian novels written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The novels take readers to a
world where all the Christians have left earth and the remnants must contend with seven years of trials and
tribulations. I can remember seeing my bumper stickers on cars which read: “In Case of The Rapture This Car
will be without a Driver.” This was a time when there was a fascination and a fear of what would happen when
the 21st Century would arrive. There are 16 books in the series and three movies. The first movie (released
2000) was even shown in some movie theaters but was also released on video. The next two movies were only
released on video to the best of my knowledge.
Paul said nothing about what would happen when the resurrected believers and the living believers met the Lord
in the air (which include the judgment seat of Christ and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in teaching about
Judgment Day in the Bible). Paul concluded simply by saying that believers will always, forever, be with the
v. 18: There is no greater comfort, encouragement, or exhortation that can be given to another than the fact that
whether Christians live or die they will be caught up to be with Christ when He comes.
1. Always check the context to get the meaning of a passage. As you read 1st Thessalonians you see the context
of Paul’s words in todays reading. Paul was addressing a concern of the congregation, not starting to teach a
new significant doctrine to the people.
2. Always seek first to know what certainties we can confess, before we address the uncertain issues. If the
teaching weakens or attacks the clear statements of God, stick with clear statements.
3. When Christ returns, the Bible says ALL will be able to see him coming.
4. Remember our great assurance: We will always be with the Lord.
5. Don’t forget to encourage one another, especially those who have lost loved ones.
Don’t forget to close with prayer. I believe a correct understanding of the End Times produces comfort and
assurance in us, not fear. Beware of those whose teaching engenders fear rather than joy in the Lord. Amen!
Pastor Milan StrongInChrist@CFL.rr.com
10–30–2020 The End Times Bible Study, Lesson #3
We are going to spend the next 3 or 4 days in Matthew 24. Today you should read Matthew 24:1–14. Take
time to pray before you read.
vs. 1-2: It wasn’t just the disciples who thought the temple was beautiful. In his history Josephus describes
how impressive it was to those approaching Jerusalem. The Temple was covered on the outside with gold
plates, that were so brilliant that when the sun shone on them, it was blinding to look at. Where there was no
gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that strangers, from a distance, thought there was snow
on the temple.
The original Temple was built by Solomon. It was destroyed, along with Jerusalem by the Babylonians in
586 b.c. and was rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15) but was greatly expanded and improved by Herod
the Great. It was the center of Jewish life for almost a thousand years – so much so, that it was customary to
swear by the temple (Matt. 23:16) and speaking against the temple could be considered blasphemy (Acts 6:13).
After Herod’s work, the temple was huge – nearly 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. Herod’s rebuilding
work started in 19 b.c., and was only completed in 63 a.d., taking more than eighty years. The temple was
finished only seven years before it was destroyed.
When Jesus went out of the temple and his disciples came up pointing out the buildings of the temple. And
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown
Some 40 years after Jesus said this, there was a widespread Jewish revolution against the Romans in
Palestine, and they enjoyed many early successes. But ultimately, Rome crushed the rebels. In 70 a.d. Jerusalem
was leveled, including the temple – just as Jesus said.
It is said that at the fall of Jerusalem, the last surviving Jews of the city fled to the temple, because it was
the strongest, most secure building in the city. Roman soldiers surrounded it, and one drunken soldier started a
fire that soon engulfed the whole building. Ornate gold detail work in the roof melted down in the cracks
between the stone walls of the temple, and to retrieve the gold, the Roman commander ordered that the temple
be dismantled stone by stone. The destruction was so complete that today they have true difficulty learning
exactly where the temple was.
This prophecy was fulfilled literally. There was a real temple, and it was really destroyed. The literal
fulfillment of this prophecy establishes the tone for the rest of the prophecies in the chapter. We should expect a
literal fulfillment for these as well.
v. 3: The disciples were perplexed by Jesus’ prophecy and they come to him privately to ask two questions.
“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Matthew does not record Jesus’ answer to this first question, but Luke does in Luke 21:8-36. (We will look
at what all the synoptic Gospels tell us in this study.)
The disciples probably thought they asked only one question. In their minds, the destruction of the temple
and the end of the age might have been tied together. But really, they asked two questions, and this second
question is answered in the remainder of the chapter. The first question is “when.” That still is the first question
in the minds of many. The second question is the one has which opened people up to much false teaching and
worthless speculation.: “What will be the SIGN of your coming and of the close of the age?”
It may also be that this second question was asked as they remembered the events surrounding the temple’s
destruction by the Babylonians. The temple was destroyed and the people taken into exile in the context of
national judgment and exile.
As Jesus answers this important second question, He will make many specific comments and predictions
about the end times. These predictions have been the source of tremendous disagreement among Christians who
have tried to understand them. Why didn’t Jesus simply say it so clearly that there was no possibility anyone
could misunderstand Him?
One reason why prophecy may seem “vague” is because God wants every age to have reasons to be ready
for Jesus return. We should not think of Jesus’ return as an event far off on a timeline, but something we have
been running parallel with since the day of Pentecost.
Though some prophetic interpretations are different, we are sure of these two items: 1. He is coming again,
and 2. we must be ready at all times.
vs. 4–8: First Jesus gives us a warning about how the devil will attempt to deceive us before Christ’s
return. In v. 5 he says, MANY false Messiahs/Christs will appear. (Another question for you to think about as
we go through this study is, “What is the difference between the false Christs and the AntiChrist whom you will
hear about later in this study. Note the emphasis on the multitude of false Christs and don’t let their supposed
success or fame deceive you. Jesus warned they would lead MANY astray. This is why you need to know your
Bible and know the Biblical requirements which are revealed about HIS REAL RETURN. (Help me to
remember to give you a list on this before we end this study.) Remember: I’m not as fast as I used to be and not
as slow as I’m gonna be or as I also say, “My forgettery works better than my memory.”
Next Jesus goes through a series of things which most people consider SIGNS of the times that lead up to
the Second Coming of the Christ: wars, rumors of wars, v. 6; nations getting into conflict with one another or
leaders of nations involved in conflict, plus famines and earthquakes in various places, v. 7.
Do you remember how I closed our lesson yesterday? I said, “Beware of Bible Teachers who teach the 2nd
coming of Christ is such a way they create fear.” The return of Jesus is to be a highlight for us, not a fearful
experience. Did you note in v. 6 what Jesus said after we hear of these wars and rumors of war, “Don’t be
alarmed, but this is not yet the end.” World Wars I & II were so named because many believed they were the
wars to end all wars. That didn’t work out did it? Then in v. 8 Jesus says all the unsettling things happening are
just false labor pains. This still isn’t the end. Notice carefully: Jesus never tells the believer to panic in the face
of God’s judgment. Memorize Romans 8:1 if you don’t understand why you are not to panic.
Throughout the history of the church there have been rash predictions were made and relied on, and
resulted in tremendous disappointment, disillusionment, and falling way. I have heard many prediction just in
my short lifespan of almost 84 years. I had a lovely lady, a faithful follower of Jesus who got tangled up with
some prophecy folks who came and told me several months before Christmas came in 1975 that she had a
dream and God told her the world would come to an end before Christmas that year. My sound Biblical advice
was, “Let’s wait and see what happened.”
In our next section of today’s reading, vs. 9-14, Jesus describes what his disciples must expect during the
time between his Ascension and Second Coming.
v. 9: We are introduced to one of the key words in talking about the end times: “Tribulation.” This word
gets caught up in the Dispensational Theology and millennialism conversation. You have two groups: Pre–
tribulation and Post– tribulation. Will Christians go through the tribulation at the end or will God take them out
of this earth to heaven (Rapture) before the tribulation arrives? We will sort this out towards the end of this
study as discuss millennialism.
This verse speaks of an enemy on the outside. During persecution will be a difficult time (tribulation,
death,) and hatred by all nations because of our love for and confession of Jesus.
v. 10: In this verse Jesus warns that “many will fall away.” Those who used to be our friends in faith now
betray us and hate us.
v. 11: Now we have a second warning of false prophets. Now it is those who had been faithful pastors in
the past. They become false prophets and lead many astray. Don’t depend on human leaders. Depend on the
written and powerful Word of God, The Sacred Scriptures and the faithful witness of the Living Word of God,
v. 12: The problems of the tribulation will cause many to grow cold. They may still associate with us, but
their love for God is now missing. They no longer worship, study the Bible, or witness for the Lord.
v. 13: Jesus tells us, “Hang in there!” Endure to the end. You have been saved and marked by God as his
own. Don’t let the devil or anyone else tell you something different.
v. 14: The is the greatest SIGN or all. It is the only sign which ends with the powerful phrase, “then the end
will come. What is it that has to be done? The gospel of the kingdom must be proclaimed throughout the whole
world as a testimony to all nations, THEN THE END WILL COME!
1. Even though God’s temple is sacred and loved by him. It will fall when the people who worship there
turn away from God. I’ve encountered a few people who believe America is bulletproof from the wrath of God
because it was founded as a Christian nation. No one who turns away from God is bulletproof.
2. Instead of trying to figure out when the end will come or how close to it we are, we are to be ready at
anytime for the earthly journey to end. Consider the millions who have died since Jesus ascended into heaven.
Truth be told, we don’t know how many more will die before he returns. Be ready: ALWAYS!
3. SIGNS of the times. When I was serving in Wisconsin, a couple of years prior to 1999, a church in
Northern Illinois started to send out notices informing all the church of Northern Illinois and Southern
Wisconsin that the world was going to end before the year 2000. Their answer to how this could be true was
that they weren’t predicting an exact date, but they were able to see the signs of the time, thus their letters. I
prefer to refer to the “Signs of the Times” as the “Signs that God will come in judgment.” God is warning us on
every newscast, every storm weather report, each fall of our earthly economics, every new illness discovered,
every death of family and friends: “Repent, the Kingdom is at Hand.”
4. Twice in our reading today we saw the phrase, “lead many astray” (vs. 5 & 11) Be careful to whom you
listen. There are misguided Christians out there and false prophets out there, and false god being bought and
sold on every street corner. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is protecting you. (suggested Memory Verse: John 14:26: But
the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to
your remembrance all that I have said to you. By the way, spend more time reading the Bible than reading
books about the Bible. God said he guided (inspired) the writers of the Scriptures and he did not promise that
about books about the Bible. Why read less than the best?
5. Don’t live in fear of the “Tribulation.” Tomorrows reading with tell you why!
6. The greatest sign is the spread of the gospel. If you believe, support mission work. God wants the whole
world to know about Jesus. It is such a great work because everyone who sins, needs Jesus. There is no one who
does not sin so tell everyone.
Close with prayer for you to be ready for Christ, every moment of everyday. Amen. Pastor Milan
October 31, 2020 The End Times Bible Study #4
Begin with prayer. Ask God to keep us studying His Word. The Word of God is powerful and changes
Read Matthew 24:15–28. Here Jesus gives specific warnings concerning the coming destruction of
There is something specific which the disciples are to anticipate, described by Jesus as “the abomination
that causes desolation”, spoken of by Daniel (Dan.9:27, 11:31, 12:11) which will precede the destruction of
Jerusalem and become the cue for the people of Judea to ‘flee to the mountains’.
vs. 15–21: Daniel’s statement where he speaks of ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ was evidently
pointing to the erection of an idolatrous altar in the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second
century before Christ on which he offered swine in sacrifice when he determined to replace Judaism with pagan
Frequently prophecies is the Old Testament had an immediate fulfillment and then a repeated fulfillment in
the future. History, says Jesus, will repeat itself again in another ‘abomination that causes desolation’, this time
in this generation. Some people falsely believed Jesus was promising that all the disciples would live to see this.
His promise is simple that will occur in that generation. We generally count 40 years as a generation and
Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed in 70 a.d.so that fits into the generation picture.
In the previous instance the temple had been liberated by the Maccabeans, but the next desecration of the
temple will mark its destruction. The Romans erected their standards in the temple in Jerusalem, prior to its
actual destruction. This was regarded by the Jews as an act of idolatry and is most likely the event to which
Jesus is referring.
The advice given when this event takes place shows something unusual is happening. The typical advice in
the villages was to flee to a walled city. This time Jesus says to flee to the mountains because Jerusalem will be
destroyed. It will be a dreadful time for pregnant women and nursing mothers, for there will be distress
unequalled from the beginning of the world. This graphically describes the terrible time that surrounded the
destruction of Jerusalem.
The end of Jerusalem and its temple began when the Roman governor of Judea, Gessius Florus, seized
money from the temple in 66 AD. This provoked an uproar amongst the Jews, which in turn provoked the
governor to send troops into the city, massacring 3,600 of its inhabitants. This again provoked a massive revolt
by the Jews against Rome.
The Emperor Nero sent a general, Vespasian, to quell the uprising, but Nero died whilst he was away and
Vespasian was recalled to Rome to become the new emperor. He appointed his son Titus to fight the Jewish
war, who surrounded Jerusalem with his army, cut off the city from any outside communication, and caused
The historian Josephus tells us how the famine devoured whole families, with roads full of the dead bodies
of men, women and children. Young men wandered around like shadows waiting to fall down dead. There was
no mourning and few tears, for the famine dulled all the natural passions. Those who were going to die looked
upon those who had gone before with dry eyes and open mouths.
A deep silence had gripped the city and as Josephus recorded, ‘Every one of them died with their eyes
fixed upon the temple’. Some turned to cannibalism and ate their own children. The horror was made worse by
people flocking into the city for refuge rather than fleeing to the mountains, and in all more than one people died. Less than ten percent survived to be taken captive and enslaved. Four years after the uprising had
begun, the city and temple were destroyed.
Many had fled Jerusalem and Judea to Masada, a fortress on a hunk of rock overlooking the Dead Sea.
Herod had built a virtually impregnable fortress there but led by Zealots some Jews attacked and amazingly
captured Masada, slaughtering the Roman army there. Before the Romans could retake the fortress, a mass
suicide by the Jews took place to avoid defeat by Romans. These events marked the end of the Jewish state until
almost nineteen hundred years later after World War II when the nation was re–established.
However, this Israel is not the restored Israel spoken of in the Bible. The government from the beginning
has claimed to be a secular government. That is why the Hassidic Jews refuse to serve in the Israel Military.
They say, “We only take orders from God.”
The Christians had been driven out of Jerusalem by earlier persecution from the Jews, and a few who had
remained fled across the Jordan to Pella during the siege of the city. The Christian Jews were therefore not
directly involved in the revolt against Rome which began in 66 a.d., and this lack of patriotism cemented the
rejection of Christians by the Jews and a complete separation of Christianity from Judaism. Throughout the
Roman world Christians were barred ever again from participation in the synagogues.
v. 22: Do you remember the promise I made yesterday. Don’t fear the tribulation. This verse is the reason
why I made that promise. God is always in control. No one would have survived if he had not cut short those
days. Plus, the Lord is going to cut those days short for the sake of his elect.
vs. 23–26: Again Jesus warns about false christs and false prophets. Here is a very important point to
remember in this study. Why can Jesus say you should not listen to anyone who says, “Here is the Christ! or
There he is!”
vs. 27–28: In v.27 we find the answer. Jesus reminds us that he is not going to sneak back into town. When
lightening flashes, everyone can see it. Jesus says that you know where a dead body is when you see the
vultures gathering. When Jesus returns, everyone will see it. Don’t let them fool you with nonsense or even if
they can do great miracles and signs (v. 24).
1. It is often helpful to re–examine the Old Testament stories which are hinted at in the New Testament.
Understanding the first will help you understand the new.
2. Knowing some of the secular history of the world also can give you insights into references in found in
3. Be sure you understand that the current nation of Israel, is not the restored Israel promised in the Bible.
That Israel is one which recognizes the Messiah. That is one of the greatest misunderstandings today.
4. Don’t fear the tribulation because God is in control and has promised to cut short its days.
5. Above all, don’t let anyone deceive you into believing Jesus came back and you didn’t know it. Jesus
says everyone will see him when he returns. That simple, easy to understand truth, will help you avoid false
christs and false prophets.
Close your study with prayer asking God to help the church on earth recognize all false teachers. Amen.
Pastor Milan Send questions or comments to StrongInChrist@CFL.rr.com
11–02–2020 End Times Bible Study #5, Matthew 24:29–35
v. 29: Immediately after the tribulation (cf. vs. 4–28, esp. 9–11 and 15–22), there will appear great cosmic
disturbances. The language is apocalyptic and draws from Isaiah 13:10 (“The stars of heaven … will not show
their light”), Isaiah 34:4 (“All the starry host will fall”), and Haggai 2:6 (“I will once more shake the heavens”).
Similar language is used in Revelation when the sixth seal is opened (Rev. 6:12–14). One commentator, Tasker,
finds in verses 29–31 a cryptic description of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and the subsequent spread of
the Christian faith. I think it is better to take the passage as setting the stage (using the rhetoric of apocalyptic
language) for the return of the Son of Man.
The “heavenly bodies” (v. 29) are sometimes identified by some as astral divinities. We know there were some
who worshiped the sun, moon and stars, but there is nothing here to suggest a war between the god’s here. It
was not Israel that played the game, “my God is better than your god.” That was the attitude of most of their
neighbor nations. It is better to take the references to the sun moon and stars in ordinary literal way.
v. 30: At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Context would suggest that the sign should
be understood as a star or comet. We remember in Jesus’ first coming, the surprise of Herod, the chief priests,
and elders who didn’t know how to answer the Magi from the east who came saying, we have seen his star and
have come to worship the new born king of the Jews.
Others refer back to the messianic passage in Isaiah 11:12 where the sign is a banner or identity flag. Schweizer
writes, “Matthew is merely trying to say that the standard of the Messiah will be raised and the trumpet blown
when he comes to establish God’s Kingdom.” Whatever the exact meaning of sign, the point being made is that
the coming of the Son of Man will be clearly visible to all people everywhere.
When the heavenly sign appears, then “all the tribes of the earth” “will beat their breasts as a sign of mourning.
Zechariah 12:10ff. pictures the clans of Israel mourning when they look on the one they have pierced (cf. John
19:37 and Rev. 1:7). When the Son of Man returns, the mourning will be universal. All the nations of the earth
will realize how irrevocably wrong they have been about the person and messianic claims of Jesus.
v. 31: Not only will all see his return but they will hear the loud trumpet call that announces his arrival. The
trumpet was used in ancient Israel to gather God’s people for religious purposes and to signal activities on the
battlefield. In speaking of a time yet future when the Israelites will be gathered, Isaiah says that “in that day a
great trumpet will sound” (Isa. 27:13).
At the sound of the eschatological trumpet (cf. 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16), the angels will be sent to the four
winds (cf. 13:41, 49) to gather God’s elect (for Old Testament parallels, cf. Zech. 2:6 and Deut. 30:4). The
scene depicted is clearly that of the return of Christ at the end of history as we know it.
We are reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians 2:9–11 where he tells us every knee shall bow before Jesus
Christ when he returns. Some will bow in honor of their Lord and Savior. Others, those who have not received
Jesus, will bow because they know they are standing before the eternal judge. I thank God that I shall bow in
adoration of my God and King, not because I am before the judge of all.
vs. 32–33: Will bring us the lessons which the fig tree has to teach us. When its tender shoots appear and begin
to open into leaves, then you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all the things just
described, know that the end is near, right at the door.
The fig tree shed its leaves in winter and budded late in spring. Since harvest in Palestine took place in the
summer, the budding of the fig tree would indicate that the end (symbolized by harvest) was at hand. All these
things, says Jesus, will happen before this generation will pass away (v. 34). This remarkable statement is more
certain than the universe itself. Heaven and earth will pass away but the words of Jesus will stand forever.
The problem is obvious: the generation alive at that time has long since passed away but the eschatological
events described in the passage have not taken place. There have been many suggestions as to how this
apparently insoluble problem may be resolved. Some have even said Jesus is a false prophet because what he
said did not happen as prophesied.
First, if the entire discourse is understood as relating to the fall of Jerusalem the problem disappears. This
answer can be held only by overlooking the rather obvious meaning of verses in the discourse. We know Jesus
is not a false prophet. Peek ahead to v. 36 where Jesus shows his limited knowledge.
Put rather boldly, Beare says, “It must be recognized that the entire apocalyptic framework of early Christian
preaching is shattered beyond any hope of rescue” (p. 473). But if the limitation of knowledge mentioned in
verse 36 is to be taken as referring to the general time of his return rather than the “actual day and time”
(Phillips), why would Jesus contradict himself with the analogy of the budding fig tree?
Third, perhaps the Greek genea (generation) means the Jewish race, or the human race in general, or perhaps the
generation alive when the series of final events begins. Others holds that it is a promise that the church will
survive to the end.
Fourth, if happened is taken as an ingressive aorist, the sentence would indicate that before the generation alive
at that time had died, all the things described in connection with the end will have started to take place.
Fifth, Hill suggests that we are probably dealing with a “shortening of historical perspective,” which is common
in prophecy. C. H. Dodd is quoted as saying that “when the profound realities underlying a situation are
depicted in the dramatic form of historical prediction, the certainty and inevitability of the spiritual processes
involved are expressed in terms of the immediate imminence of the event.”
Biblical prophecy is capable of multiple fulfillment. In the immediate context, the “abomination of desolation”
(v. 15) builds on the defilement of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, is repeated when the sacred temple in
Jerusalem is destroyed by the Roman army in a.d. 70. A more complete fulfillment occurs when the Antichrist
exalts himself by taking his seat in the “temple of God” proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:3–4).
In a similar way, the events of the immediate period leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem portend a greater
and more universal catastrophe when Christ returns in judgment at the end of time. Gundry is right in his
observation that double fulfillment (I would say “multiple fulfillment”) involves an ambiguity that needs to be
accepted as fact rather than objected to on literary grounds.
1. Thus far the emphasis is on the people and events around us here on earth. Now we come to some of the
cosmic “signs of the times.” To be truthful they are as mysterious as the storms (earthquakes, tornadoes,
hurricanes, etc.) or wars and rumors of wars. My belief is that every one of those we see is intended to be a
reminder to us that this world is not going to last.
2. Again we have the assurance that when Jesus, returns, it will not be a secret visit that you might miss. It will
be self–evident to all the nations.
3. Don’t get caught up into the identity of the signs game! History is full of misguided identifications which
someone said would prove the world was coming to an end on ???? In 1988 a man sold over 1 million book
entitled, “88 Reasons the Lord with return in 1988.” He prepared a sequel in 1989 which still sold over 400,000
copies. He could not get anyone to publish his “90 Reasons Jesus will return in 1990.
4. Don’t let anyone tell you they know the day or hour Jesus is returning. The Bible is clear, only God know
5. Watch for the kinds of multiple fulfillments we find in the Bible.
6. The simple key is be ready ALL the time.
Close with prayer for the protection from the false christs and false prophets
11/03/2020 End Times Bible Study #6, Matthew 24:36–51
v. 36: This v. makes a surprise announcement. We are not amazed that no person knows the day or hour of
the Lord’s return. The angels not knowing doesn’t confuse us. They are not in charge in heaven. They serve
God. We are shocked that Jesus was certain of his return, but he didn’t know the exact time. Only the father
knows. This is a demonstration of what we call “The Humiliation of Jesus.”
This was a conscious decision of Jesus that is descripted in Philippians 2:5–8. I encourage you to read
those verses. As a genuine human being, the Christ did not always or fully use or manifest the divine powers
and majesty that were communicated to his human nature. This began with the lowly manner of his incarnation,
continued in the of his birth and life, and was complete with his death and burial. We call this his state of
vs. 37–39: Jesus’ point about Noah is that life went on as usual. There was no sign other than the preaching
of Noah for the 120 years while he was building the ark, when suddenly the flood came. From this reference we
note that God waited patiently for 120 years for people to repent, but there was no change. Since he waited 120
years no one could say if He had only waited a bit longer they would repent.
Then he pointed out that they were unaware until the flood came and washed them all away. He said that is
the way it is going to be at the end time.
vs. 40–42: These verses are often misunderstood. Those who believe there will be a ‘Rapture,” consider
these verses proof, one taken, another left. You should read vs. 40 and 41 in light of v. 42. Paul is writing to the
people who are eager for Jesus to return. The early Christians prayed regularly, “Even so Lord Jesus, come
quickly.” He is not writing to those who are unprepared to meet him.
It is the obvious that the emphasis for all is watchfulness. We are to be prepared all the time because we
can’t know the time of the end. We can’t outsmart God just as he warned us. This section is a call for
faithfulness as we live in hope. Our motivation in the service of Christ is a meaningful relation with him, not a
fear of the end and, a resultant artificial approach to life.
The emphasis in this last section is on preparedness, for although we associate freely in society we have a
different relation than the rest of society to the Master. There will be a division coming for “one will be taken
and the other left.” While this is often spoken of as the “rapture,” the thrust is to insure our being ready for his
coming, for Jesus said he is “coming at an hour when you do not expect him!”
vs. 43–44: We have a 1 verse parable type teaching in v. 43. Then in v. 44 Jesus applies the thief story
parable to us. We will not know the day or hour when the Lord returns. If the homeowner knew when the thief
was coming he would have stayed awake to protect his house. The only true protection we have is by being
ready all the time.
vs. 45–47: The Christ introduces this section by asking a probing question: “Who is the faithful and wise
servant?” It is the one who is carrying out his duties when the master returns. Whenever, the master returns, he
will bless the faithful servant and set him over all his possessions. This is not a picture of someone earning a
place in heaven. This is the example of someone thankful for the mercy of God who keeps his life focused, as
much as possible for sinful mankind, living a thanksgiving life for God.
vs. 48–51: Now we find a warning about someone who does not live a thanksgiving life. His idea is I can
do what I want until the master returns. What he forgets is that he does not know when the master is coming. In
v. 50 Jesus makes it clear again, it will happen on a day and hour when he does not expect the master and he
will be caught in his sin. Even if he had done such a good job of pretending to serve the master that he fools all
or at least many on the earth, he cannot fool God. Instead of joyful eternity with the master, he will be placed
with the hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
SIGNIFICANT POINTS IN THIS READING:
1. No one knows or is able to predict the time of Jesus return.
2. No specific signs mark out the time (vs. 37–39).
3. The only sign which says, “and then the end will come” is after the Gospel of the kingdom is preached to the
whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matt. 24;14). Only God know when that time has come so don’t join
any Bible Study which promises you they will show you how to know when the end is at hand. If they say that,
they are claiming to be gods themselves.
4. To be prepared for the end, live a thanksgiving life for God. There is no secret society you need to join. Have
faith in God’s mercy and grace: confess your sins, be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness. Then you
are ready. God’s grace cannot be earned or deserved. It is always God’s gift (Eph. 2:8–9).
5. The faithful and wise servant is the one doing what God has called him/her to do, knowing that when you
sin, you seek forgiveness.
Close with prayer asking God to protect you from the desire to know when the end is coming. If you get caught
up with those trying to figure it all out ahead of time, cease and desist immediately. Get busy living a
thanksgiving life rather than trying to satisfy your curiosity. Amen. Pastor Milan
11/04/2020 End Times Bible Study #7, Mark 13:1–37
Before we leave the Words of Jesus, we want to look at the Gospels of Mark and Matthew to see if any
additional information is provided in the Synoptic Gospels that we did not encounter in Matthew 24:1–51. Mark
is the next Gospel and we find a very similar outline and information. You might want to take a quick read of
Mark 13:1–37 to see for yourself.
The first additional information from Mark is about which disciples first heard Jesus remarks about the
coming destruction of the beautiful temple. Let me remind you of the three different perspectives of the authors
of the synoptic (means: ‘with the same eye’) writers. Matthew was one of the original 12. We know who he was
a tax collector. He is called Levi in Mark and Luke. He is the only disciple beside the first four fishermen, Peter,
Andrew, James and John, who gets a special recognition of his call to follow Jesus.
Mark was a very common name at that time. We find a number of references to Mark in the New
Testament, but we don’t believe there was only one Mark referred to in the Bible. Here we are dependent on
tradition. There are two Biblical references which fit into the traditions about Mark. The first is found in Mark
14:51–52 about one who fled naked from the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. No name is
given, but since is an unknow detail from anywhere else and it not of great significance, most assume it was
Mark himself. Then in Acts 12:6–19 Luke records a fascinating story which connects him closely to Peter. A
prayer meeting for imprisoned Peter was being held at the home of Mary. A logical assumption is made that she
was a wealthy woman. She had a large house because many could gather there, plus she has a servant girl,
perhaps even other who are not mentioned. Her home could have been where the Christians in Jerusalem
Thus Mary’s son (John Mark) was an active participant with the disciples, which would account for his
being in the Garden with Jesus. Church tradition says he was one of the 70/72 sent out on a mission trip by
Jesus which is recorded in Luke 10:1–20. Then in Acts.15:36–41 We find a reference of a John Mark who had
been on a mission trip with Paul and for some unknown reason, left the trip He is also was a young man who
knew the disciple well. The traditions of the church are interesting, but certainly are not matters of faith for us.
Our confidence in the Scriptures comes from our belief in the work and power of the Holy Spirit in inspiring the
I will close my remarks about the traditions of Mark by referencing the elaborate traditions the Coptic
Church has about Mark, the Gospel writer. Coptic tradition also holds that Mark the Evangelist hosted the
disciples in his house after Jesus’s death, that the resurrected Jesus Christ came to Mark’s house (John 20), and
that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost in the same house. Furthermore, Mark is also
believed to have been among the servants at the Marriage at Cana who poured out the water that Jesus turned to
According to the Coptic tradition, Mark was born in Cyrene, a city in the Pentapolis of North Africa (now
Libya). This tradition adds that Mark returned to Pentapolis later in life, after being sent by Paul to Colossae
(Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24. Some, however, think these actually refer to Mark the Cousin of Barnabas), and
serving with him in Rome (2 Tim 4:11); from Pentapolis he made his way to Alexandria. When Mark returned
to Alexandria, the pagans of the city resented his efforts to turn the Alexandrians away from the worship of their
traditional gods. In AD 68, they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was
v. 9: Matthew says they will be delivered up to tribulation. Mark gives more details. He says they will be
delivered to local councils and they will be beaten in synagogues. Then he points out the problems will grow
because they will be called before governors and kings but they must witness before them.
v. 10: Worthy of note is this verse which reinforces Matt. 24:14 must FIRST be proclaimed to all nations.
Why do we focus on signs that this world will end someday and ignore the priority that God has established to
take the gospel to all nations? God’s plan is missions, missions, missions to all nations!
v. 11: Then he adds words of comfort. Being called before such high officials, as governors and kings, was
a frightening experience. God says, do not worry about what you will say. He will give them the words to say
because the Holy Spirit will be speaking through them.
v. 12: Now another word of warning. Problems because of following Jesus will even destroy families:
brother against brother, child against parents, even delivering them to death (cf. Matt. 24:10, 12). God always
adds: “Endure to end and you will be saved.” The world can take away everything except our salvation and the
gift of eternal life. As the world or life takes things from you, always cling to your salvation and eternal life, not
overly worried about your physical life. The best is yet to come for us.
The big question for us is why is the Lord waiting? God questions back to us is why aren’t you
aggressively taking the gospel to all nations? I like the theory suggested by one teacher. God is waiting until
humanity has so tied the affairs of this world into knots that to wait longer would not make a difference.
One aspect of this impasse may be that we have entered the nuclear age, and the world now has over
50,000 nuclear warheads, sufficient to blow the whole world up fifty times over! But God, the main actor in
salvation history, is holding back the end, pressing it back in His love and patience desiring that all should be
saved and “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
1. Remember that each Gospel writer is speaking from a special perspective. Matthew, one of the 12, was a
despised Jew. Hated by his own people because he worked for the Romans as a tax collector. He personally
proved two important points: A. Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and should be received as such. B.
Even a fallen Jew, can be welcomed back into God’ family. Mark is a practicing follower of Jesus and looks at
Jesus through the eyes of someone close to Jesus, but not an intimate partner in ministry. He like John shows
the divinity of Jesus because when ever Jesus speaks or acts, immediately it is done. Since was a companion of
Peter, his message was understood by the Roman power brokers of his day. Tomorrow we will look at Luke.
2. Mark shows us a clearer picture of how resistant the world can become to God. Local authorities, high
government officials, and even family may be our enemy. A very good human reason for us to be concerned
about our earthly future, but remember, you salvation is sure and safe when you endure to the end. Also when
called to speak in circumstances beyond your capabilities, do not fret. God will send his Holy Spirit to speak in
you and through you.
3. If we are saying we are eager for the Lord to return, then get on board the missions bandwagon. Jesus will
return when God’s grace and mercy has been proclaimed to the nations.
Close with prayer. Ask God to fill you with a mission heart and to fill our churches with a mission mind.
Everyone needs Christ so let’s get busy sharing Jesus close to home, wherever we go, even to the ends of the
earth. Pastor Milan Weerts Send questions to: mailto:StrongInChrist@cfl.rr.com
11–05–2020 End Times Bible Study #08, Luke 21.5–-38
We continue our comparison of the synoptic gospels to Matthew to see what additional information may be revealed. Yesterday I shared with you the differences between the authors and their purpose as they wrote. Luke is a physician, but he was serving as a historian according to his introduction in 1.1–4. He tells us that many had begun to write a record of the things which happened among the early Christians. Eyewitness accounts from ministers of the word also shared their story.
Then Luke says it seemed like a good idea to him also and he was going to write an orderly account for most excellent Theophilus. He not only wrote his Gospel for or to him, but also the Book of Acts. His name has a wonderful meaning: “Friend of God.” But after he is mentioned in the introduction of these books, we never hear from him again. The fact that Luke addresses his as “most excellent Theophilus” indicates he is a person who holds some kind of high office, either in the government or the church.
I had always thought of him as a high official in government who was personally known by Luke. In more recent years the suggestion is that it was Theophilus ben Ananus, High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem from 37 to 41. In this tradition Theophilus would have been both a priest and a Sadducee. That would make him the son of Annas and brother-in-law of Caiaphas, raised in the Jewish Temple. This certainly would be an interesting tie into the Jesus story.
I think it is more likely that he was a Roman Official or even Theophilus could have been Paul’s lawyer during his trial period in Rome. To support this claim people appeal to the formal legalese present in the prologue to the Gospel such as “eye witnesses,” “account,” “carefully investigated,” “know the certainty of things which you have been instructed.” The conclusion of the Book of Acts ends with Paul still alive and under arrest awaiting trial, suggesting it was the intention of the author to update Theophilus on Paul’s history to provide an explanation of his travels and preaching and serve as evidence in support of his innocence under Roman law. Some also point to the parallel between the account of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate narrated in Luke’s Gospel with the account of Paul’s trials before Roman judges in the Book of Acts. In total, Jesus was declared innocent 3 times by Pontius Pilate as was Paul before various judges. We must be truthful and say we don’t know who Theophilus was and it matters not in this study.
v. 11: Luke seems to make a stronger case for the troubles to be faced in the tribulation. Matthew and Mark only mention famines and earthquakes. Luke says, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (cf. Luke 21:11 with Matt. 24:7 & Mark 13:13).
v. 12–15: I don’t claim to know why he gives a greater warning, but I believe he follows it up with greater comfort. In v. 12 he warns how these events will impact them personally. This is very similar to what Matthew and Mark said. His warning even includes the appearing before kings and governors because of their connection to Christ. Jesus said do not even start thinking about what you will say when that happens (vs. 14–15). God promises he will give them a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries will not be able to withstand. He doesn’t name the Holy Spirit here.
vs. 16–19: Then they are reminded again how people, even families, will turn against one another. Then comes the biggest promise: “Not a hair of your head will perish.” Endure, with the help of God and you will endure for eternity.
vs. 26–28: Now Jesus contrasts the behavior of the world with the attitude of the Christians. The world is fainting and with foreboding of what coming on the world (v. 26). Then in v. 28 we told to straighten up and raise our head in eager expectation for our redemption is drawing near. Wow! What a contrast: fear versus eager anticipation.
vs. 35–36: These have some important information for us. Notice there is no promise that some will escape the troubling times. He double stresses that by referring to “all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” This requires us to stay awake all the time. We need to pray for the strength which God gives so we may be able to stand till the end of time.
vs. 37–38: While Jesus was facing the most difficult time in his earthly life, he wasn’t slacking off and resting. Every day he was teaching in the temple. He stayed now on Mt. Olive rather than hiking to the friendly confines of Bethany with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Then early in the morning he was back at it. He continued teaching about the kingdom of God, working like someone who was making the most of his last days of a political campaign.
1. Don’t go chasing rabbits when you are involved in Bible Study. If we were involved in a study of Gospel of Luke, the questions about who is Theophilus, should be studied in depth. However, since we are studying the end times, it was unimportant for us. This is a lesson for you. What is interesting to us may at times distract us from our main study. Since we didn’t have a lot of significant material in Luke which was unique or expanded, we had time to cover an item of interest.
2. Luke’s more significant warning about the end times, is of note. We don’t know why, but as we study the end times it certainly attracts our attention.
3. Luke’s greater comfort is significant. God’s emphasis on not even beginning to think about your reply to the authorities, God will give his witnesses words which their enemies cannot withstand or contradict.
4. No matter how bad it gets, “Not a hair of your head will perish” That is comfort in the midst of crisis.
5. While the world is cringing in fear because of the world’s trials, we are standing tall, maybe even on tiptoe, because we see beyond the troubles to see the approaching redeemer.
6. Our confidence in the last days is NOT that we are raptured away to escape the troubles. Our hope, as pointed out by Mark13:20 & Matthew 24:22, is that the days of trouble will be cut short by the Lord.
Close with prayer asking for God to protect his people from fear and instead look forward to the coming of our Savior. Amen.
11–07–2020/posted 11-09-20 End Times Bible Study #10, A Look into Old Testament
As you begin, pray for God to help you see that the plan of God’s salvation has never changed. That is the power and work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
The Hebrew language doesn’t have as many words from which to choose when you are describing something. The same word is used with multiple understanding. The context determines which English word we use and those are chosen by the translators. The word for “DAY” is an example. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament gives this definition of “Yom,” (Hebrew for Day): A masculine noun meaning day, time, year. This word stands as the most basic conception of time in the Old Testament. It designates such wide-ranging elements as the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset (Gen. 1:5; 1 Kgs. 19:4); a literal twenty-four hour cycle (Deut. 16:8; 2 Kgs. 25:30); a generic span of time (Gen. 26:8; Num. 20:15); a given point in time (Gen. 2:17; 47:29; Ezek. 33:12). In the plural, the word may also mean the span of life (Ps. 102:3 ) or a year (Lev. 25:29; 1 Sam 27:7). The prophets often infuse the word with end–times meanings or connotations, using it in connection with a future period of consequential events, such as the “day of the LORD” (Jer. 46:10; Zech. 14:1) or simply, “that day” (Isa. 19:23; Zech. 14:20, 21).
That is why you may find phrases such as “day of the LORD” or “that day” in an Old Testament translation, but in Hebrew the is only “day.” The largest number of verses are prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. As you know from Acts 2:16–21 (Peter quoting Joel 2:28–32) Jesus earthly coming marks the beginning of the end times. None of us have ever lived outside of the end times, nor did our parents, grandparents, great–grandparents, etc.
The end-time period surrounding Jesus’ second coming is variously called the last times, last hour, last days, day of the Lord, day of judgment, day of Gods wrath, time of punishment, end of the ages, end of all things. The temporal finality of these expressions highlights the firm New Testament belief that the present course of history will come to an end when Jesus returns. The certainty of the first advent guarantees the certainty of the second (Acts 1:7)
Moses’ Warning to the Israelites: In Deuteronomy 31:29, Moses tells the Israelites: “For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (NASB). To understand the Covenant relationship, read Leviticus 26. It begins with the blessings of obedience (vs. 1–13), continues with the punishment for disobedience (vs. 14–39, and closes with the promise of forgiveness if they repent and return to God (vs. 40–46. Study your cross references and you will find many fascinating connections to the New Testament — particularly Romans 9-11 and the book of Revelation. The last days spoken of in Deuteronomy 31:29 are speaking of the last days of the Old Covenant not the last days of the earth.
Jeremiah 30:24 says: “The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back, until He has performed and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this (NASB).” Jeremiah 30:24 speaks of judgment coming upon His people, and it is also the context for Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31 contains several fulfilled prophecies at the first advent of Christ. For example, Jeremiah 31:15 is a prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 2:16-18. Jesus is born under law (Galatians 4:4), at the end of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is ending with Christ’s birth, and the New Covenant is at hand with the beginning of His ministry. In writing to Jews, the author of Hebrews says in chapter 1:1-2: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways 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.” The things “spoken of long ago to the fathers and prophets” are the passages that we are outlining here. If you study these verses carefully, against current thought, the last days of the Jews and their Covenant were upon them. These references begin to line up with the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world.
A special warning. Because the coming of Jesus marks the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah, we don’t have dispensational theology. That says there are different ways to be saved at different times. No, there is only one way of salvation throughout the Scripture. We believe the promise of God to provide the victory over sin and Satan (cf. Genesis 3:15). The New Testament tell the story of the Messiah, God’s eternal son, who
humbled himself and became a human being. Faith in old or new covenant shows God fulfilling his promise to rescue us and the only difference between salvation in the Old versus the New is that we know the name of the one who came to save, Jesus is his name.
Tomorrow we will finish our peek into the Old Testament and then I will list the Significance Points we can take from looking back.
11–10–2020 End Times Bible Study #11, Old Testament Part Two
Good news! I have my email working again. You may resume sending me your questions to this address: StrongInChrist@CFL.rr.com
Always begin Bible Study with prayer. God used the Holy Spirit to direct the authors to record the truth of God. The Spirit will also help you to understand the Word of God.
Probably the Old Testament Scripture which sounds most like the New Testament on the end times is Micah 4:1–4. I encourage you to stop and read those verses now. Notice the End Times emphasis, the many gentile nations coming to God and peace that will come when God breaks into our world. These words are similar to the promises which God is going to fulfill after the return of Jesus. Two common picture are used: universal peace between the nations and harmony of nature. Read Isaiah 11:6–9 gives us a picture of nature in unity with other life forms in the world. My favorite way of describing this is to say, “The lion will lie down with the lamb and he won’t say, “Lunch.”
In Jeremiah 31:31–34 God reveals the work of the new covenant (Testament) God will make with his children. The commands of God will not be written on tablets of stone, but it will be written in our hearts. The foundation of the new relationship with God is the power of forgiveness when we are make holy, perfect, people by the grace of God.
Here again we see an example of what I refer to as double fulfillment. It is accomplished first when Jesus lives a perfect life for us. Then he pays the price of sin by laying down his life as the perfect sinless sacrifice for sin. No longer will blood be shed by man or beast as a continual reminder of our sin. Jesus has paid it ALL. The one who died is raised to life to show us the promise of new life given by God. We do nothing to pay for our sin. We do nothing to deserve forgiveness. It is the free gift of God to us (Eph. 2:4–10). This fulfillment happens when we come to faith in God’s promise. The fulness of it will not be received until the day Jesus returns and our soul and body are reunited in the great resurrection. Satan will be bound and thrown into the pit of fire (hell) never to bring the disaster of sin upon mankind again. That’s the Gospel (good news) that should cause us all to pray, “Even so Lord, come quickly!”
Ezekiel 30:3 warns that there is another side to the Lord’s return. He also comes to judge. It will be a day of doom for the nations which have ignored God and also for the children of Abraham who only share his blood line, not his faith or trust in the promises of God.
SIGNIFICANT POINTS FROM TWO PEEKS INTO OLD TESTAMENT
1. Remember that Hebrew is a more economical (less words) language and context is very important in selecting which emphasis of the word “day” is intended.
2. Note the wide variety of names used to describe the end times. The end-time period surrounding Jesus’ second coming is variously called the last times, last hour, last days, day of the Lord, day of judgment, day of Gods wrath, time of punishment, end of the ages, end of all things. Whenever you see one of these words or phrases, look for something about the end times.
3. The references to the last days of the Old Covenant and the last days of earth and heaven themselves are another example of partial and complete fulfillment. Every earthquake or destructive storm is to remind us that this world isn’t forever. God give us many reminders of his coming judgment and the final judgment.
4. I hope you have noticed how many times there are references to the nations (gentiles) being brought into the Kingdom. Just as the descendants of Abraham were to cause the gentiles to be jealous and desire to join themselves to Yahweh, so should be Christians function in that way. You might want to memorize Zechariah 8:23, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”
5. The two greatest pictures of what life will be like after the return of Jesus are life in the Garden of Eden (close, personal fellowship with God where work was always successful and rewarding) and true world peace. Peace between nations, between ethnic groups, peace between males and females, and peace in families and marriage.
6. By faith, live a thankful life for God in appreciation of all he has done for you. Thankful that you do not have to appear before the judgment throne of God because you are forgiven: holy and righteous in his sight.
Tomorrow I will give you a summary of Dispensational Theology and why it is not the correct way to approach God. Pray for God’s help in recognizing false theology.
11–11–2020 End Times Bible Study # 12 –– Dispensational Theology
As usual, begin with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth (John 14:26). This will be a short summary. You might need to read it several times to grasp what it says if you have not previously studies it or heard of it. I believe it misrepresents the teachings of the Bible in several ways.
Dispensationalism is a method of interpreting history that divides God’s work and purposes toward mankind into different periods of time. The main proponents use seven dispensations. I will limit the discussion to the seven basic dispensations, using the most common names. I will list time name, time period covered, God’s commands and warnings for each stage.
#1: Dispensation of Innocence (Genesis 1:28-30 and 2:15-17). It covers the time from creation till Adam and Eve sin in the Garden of Eden by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. In this dispensation God’s commands were to (1) populate the earth with children, (2) subdue the earth, (3) have dominion over the animals, (4) care for the garden, and (5) abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God warned of the punishment of physical and spiritual death for disobedience.
#2: Dispensation of Conscience. It lasted about 1,656 years from the time of Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden until the flood (Genesis 3:8–8:22). This dispensation demonstrates what mankind will do if left to his own will and conscience, which have been tainted by the inherited sin nature. The five major aspects of this dispensation are 1) a curse on the serpent, 2) a change in womanhood and childbearing, 3) a curse on nature, 4) the imposing of difficult work on mankind to produce food, and 5) the promise of Christ as the seed who will bruise the serpent’s head (Satan).
#3: Dispensation of Human Government which began in Genesis 8. God had destroyed life on earth with a flood, saving just one family to restart the human race. God made the following promises and commands to Noah and his family: A: God will not curse the earth again. B: Noah and family are to replenish the earth with people. C: They shall have dominion over the animal creation. D: They are allowed to eat meat. E: The law of capital punishment is established. F: There never will be another worldwide flood. G: The sign of God’s promise will be the rainbow.
Noah’s descendants did not scatter and fill the earth as God had commanded, thus failing in their responsibility in this dispensation. About 325 years after the flood, the earth’s inhabitants began building a tower, a great monument to their solidarity and pride (Genesis 11:7-9). God brought the construction to a halt, creating different languages and enforcing His command to fill the earth. The result was the rise of different nations and cultures. From that point on, human governments have been a reality.
#4: Dispensation of Promise. It started with the call of Abraham, continued through the lives of the patriarchs, and ended with the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a period of about 430 years. During this dispensation God developed a great nation that He had chosen as His people (Genesis 12:1–Exodus 19:25).
The basic promise during the Dispensation of Promise was the Abrahamic Covenant. Here are some of the key points of that unconditional covenant: A: From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity. B: God would make Abraham’s name great. C: God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that cursed them. D: In Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. E: The sign of the covenant is circumcision. F: This covenant, which was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, is confined to the Hebrew people and the 12 tribes of Israel.
#5 Dispensation of Law. It lasted almost 1,500 years, from the Exodus until it was suspended after Jesus Christ’s death. This dispensation will continue during the Millennium, with some modifications. During the Dispensation of Law, God dealt specifically with the Jewish nation through the Mosaic Covenant, or the Law, found in Exodus 19–23. The dispensation involved temple worship directed by priests, with further direction spoken through God’s mouthpieces, the prophets. Eventually, due to the people’s disobedience to the covenant, the tribes of Israel lost the Promised Land and were subjected to bondage.
#6: Dispensation of Grace. This is the one in which we are now living. It began with the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20). This “Age of Grace” or “Church Age” occurs between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel 9:24. It starts with the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and ends with the Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4). This dispensation is worldwide and includes both Jews and the Gentiles. Man’s responsibility during the Dispensation of Grace is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God (John 3:18). In this dispensation the Holy Spirit indwells believers as the Comforter (John 14:16-26). This dispensation has lasted for almost 2,000 years, and no one knows when it will end. We do know that it will end with the Rapture of all born-again believers from the earth to go to heaven with Christ. Following the Rapture will be the judgments of God lasting for seven years.
#7: Millennial Kingdom of Christ. It will last for 1,000 years as Christ Himself rules on earth. This Kingdom will fulfill the prophecy to the Jewish nation that Christ will return and be their King. The only people allowed to enter the Kingdom are the born-again believers from the Age of Grace, righteous survivors of the seven years of tribulation, and the resurrected Old Testament saints. No unsaved person is allowed access into this kingdom. Satan is bound during the 1,000 years. This period ends with the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-14). Then the earth will be destroyed by fire, and the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin.
What are the problems with this design of God dealing with his people? Jesus warned there would always be false prophets. A few people expressed ideas with some similarity to the Dispensational theme, but they were all based on apocryphal books which were ignored or rejected in making the Biblical canon. It is a new way of looking at the prophecies of God. How new? Most people agree that J. N. Darby (1800––1882) was the father of modern Dispensational Theology and Futurism. He was an Anglo-Irish Bible teacher, one of the influential figures among the original Plymouth Brethren and the founder of the Exclusive Brethren. Pre-tribulation rapture theology was popularized extensively in the 1830s by J. N. Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and further popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible.
Kansas attorney, C.I. Scofield (1843-1921), was converted to Christ at age 36. During the 1880’s in St. Louis, James Brookes discipled Scofield teaching him dispensationalism. An ordained Congregationalist, Scofield, pastored both Congregational and Presbyterian churches. He is well-known as a popularizer of dispensationalism through his widely-known and controversial Scofield Reference Bible (1909). His work has done more to spread dispensationalism through,out the English-speaking world than anything else.
Charles C. Ryrie (1925––2016), was a teacher at Dallas Theological Seminary and taught Systematics and for over 20 years was the dean of doctoral studies. I do not recommend using either the Scofield Reference Bible or the Ryrie Study Bible. I do not accept the existence of a Rapture. I would encourage you to study covenant theology. We have referred to the Bible as The Old Testament (Covenant) and the New Testament (Covenant). This will give you a more solid foundation for studying The End Times.
Another problem: In the Bible the word “dispensation” never refers to a period of time. Invariably its meaning is “a stewardship,” “the act of dispensing,” “an administration.” Read the four New Testament texts in which the word “dispensation” is found: 1 Corinthians 9:17 (ESV–stewardship); Ephesians 1:10 (ESV–plan); 3:2; and Colossians 1:25.
The plan of the ages is a gospel plan. God’s dealings with man have been ever the same. Faithful Abel and Enoch, Abraham and Moses, were all “saved by grace.” By “faith,” they trusted God’s promise. So, today God’s remnant church is a church which is saved by faith through grace and then lives a life of thanksgiving toward God and keeps the commandments of God to demonstrate their thanks.
Pray to keep clear that God has only had one plan of salvation from eternity. Tomorrow I will spend time discussing Millennialism, another divisive issue about the end times.
11–12–2020 End Times Bible Study #13, Millennialism
Begin with prayer. May the Holy Spirit help to get the message we need. Faith isn’t a problem solving event. It is trusting the one who laid down his life for you.
Revelation 20:1–10 mentions a thousand-year reign of Christ with His saints: the millennium. This is the only passage in the Bible that speaks of this, and because it is not obvious what is being spoken of, it has become a matter of controversy down through the ages.
There are two main ways to understand the millennium. Some theologians believe that the millennium is a symbol for the reign of the saints in heaven during the gospel age. Others take it as referring to a reign of Christ with or through His saints on the earth. Here there are three possibilities: Amillennialists (amils) believe that the entire gospel age is the millennium; premillennialists (premils) believe that the millennium comes after Christ’s return but before the Last Judgment and lasts one thousand years; postmillennialists (postmils) believe that the millennium is a golden age (no specified length) of spiritual influence on the earth, captained by Christ ruling from heaven, before His second advent. Most Lutherans are amillennialists.
There are variations in each view. Some amils put the millennium in heaven, while others include the church on earth. Some premils add other features, such as a rapture and seven-year tribulation period before the millennium starts (this is a feature of dispensationalism, which we discussed yesterday). Some postmils say that the millennium is the whole gospel age, but still look forward to a time of prosperity for the Gospel based on other passages.
The three positions generally boil down to a kind of historical pessimism versus optimism. Premils usually believe things are going to get worse and worse until finally a great tribulation breaks out, and then Jesus will return to set up His thousand-year rule. Postmils believe that, in spite of ups and downs, the kingdom of Christ will. spread over the world and leaven all of human culture, prior to a final rebellion at which point Jesus will return to end history. Amils see the ups and downs, but don’t see any kind of “golden age.” They stress that Christ could return at any moment, without any preceding signs or events.
The word “millennium” comes from Latin and simply means “one thousand years.” “Millennialism” (or “millenarianism”) envisions one thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth before world history comes to its final fulfillment. (“Chiliasm,” taken from Greek, has the same meaning and is often the term of preference among Christian scholars on the European continent.) The origin of the idea of a millennium, and the only explicit biblical reference to it, is in Revelation 20:1–10. In this passage John, the seer, sees a vision of Satan bound and locked away in the abyss for a thousand years to keep him from deceiving the nations. The same vision depicts Christian martyrs resurrecting to life to reign together with Christ for a thousand years. This vision portrays the millennial period as a time of justice, peace, and human flourishing in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
Christians have differed concerning the proper interpretation of John’s vision of the thousand years in Revelation 20.
Premillennialists believe that Christ’s second coming will occur before the millennium, at which time he will rule over the nations for a thousand years until history ends. Although not the only interpretation during the first three centuries of the Christian era, premillennialism was very popular among many. It declined during the Constantinian and medieval periods, but it attracted widespread attention once again (especially in its dispensationalist form) during the nineteenth century, under the influence of British and American leaders such as Edward Irving (1792–1834), J. N. Darby (1800–1882), and C. I. Scofield (1843–1921). Premillennialism remains very popular today, especially among Christian fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals.
Postmillennialists view Jesus as returning after the millennial golden age, when good progressively triumphs over evil because of the spread of the gospel and of Christian influence on society. Scholars are in disagreement regarding its origins, but some of its basic ideas were anticipated early in Christian history. The
twelfth-century writer Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135–1202) was among the first genuine postmillennialists, and the Savoy Declaration of 1658 was its earliest creedal statement. It was Daniel Whitby (1638–1726), however, who popularized this view and gave it its most impressive formulation. He challenged the prevailing amillennialist interpretations of the day and paved the way for the dominance of postmillennial views in the nineteenth century. Postmillennialism played a significant role in promoting social gospel and reform movements in the modern era, but the horrors of World War I undermined it, and it was eclipsed by premillennialism.
Amillennialists reject the very idea of a future earthly millennium in history, interpreting John’s vision symbolically as Christ’s reign from heaven in the present church age. Among the church fathers, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215), Origen (185–254), and Cyprian (200–258) rejected millennialism altogether. Origen’s challenge was especially significant because of the allegorical method of interpretation he employed. Saint Augustine (354–430) capitalized on allegorical hermeneutics to systematize a view of amillennialism that became the dominant interpretation of the medieval and Reformation periods.
While there is no current consensus regarding the millennium, all orthodox Christians who hold to these various positions agree that Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Lord of history who will one day return to bring all history to its culmination. Thank God the salvation story stands.
What I fail to understand is this: Since God has told us no human knows the day or hour when Jesus will return, why do we spend so much time trying to make sure we get the variety of things that are signs of the time in the correct order if can’t know when it is coming. Rather than wasting time trying to get it all straight, let’s just spend our time getting the salvation story out and follow Jesus instruction, “Be ready all the time.”
Close with prayer. Ask God to help you share the salvation story rather than worrying about how close the end it. Maybe you won’t be alive and still walking on the face of this earth. Then what good has all the focus on when or how the end is coming done. Spend your time telling people how to be ready all the time thru faith in Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior. I don’t claim to know what God meant with the reference to 1,000 years. I just know that since I have Jesus in my life, I already have the peace which passes all human understanding. I don’t know if I might have to wait for 1,000 years somewhere down the road. I just want to know I’m ready whichever way history unfolds. What I NEED to know is that I am forgiven and loved by Jesus. Thus prepared for eternity. Hallelujah!
11–13–2020 End Times Bible Study #14, The Mark of the Beast
The Mark of the Beast in Revelation has consistently been a question of concern for the people of God. As you pray before you begin this study, pray God has helped me share something of benefit to you. Pray that you may understand and do not be afraid to ask questions. You can send them to me via messenger on Facebook or use the following email to contact me directly: StrongInChrist@cfl.rr.com If I should ever quote you, I will not identify you.
I have found a couple of misunderstandings about the Mark on the Forehead or on the right hand. I want you to stop before reading any farther and answer these questions: 1. Where does putting a special mark on someone first appear in the Bible? 2. Read Ezekiel 9:3–6. Who is putting a mark on the forehead here? Why is he putting this mark on them? What is the purpose of the mark?
The answer to the questions I asked. The first person to receive a mark is Cain. Read Genesis 4:13–16 and tell what was the purpose of the mark? When you heard it was the mark on Cain who murdered his brother Abel did you think it was a punishment or a blessing? I remember several of my Sunday School teachers who said that the reason we were expelled from the Garden of Eden was our sin, Go back and read Genesis 3:22 and see how God himself described it in the Bible. God wanted us to not eat of the tree of life and then be forced to live forever as damaged creatures. He wanted to have a way to redeem sinful mankind.
The mark of Cain was not punishment, it was protection. In Gen. 4:14 Cain said his punishment was more than he could bear. So in Gen. 4:15 God protects him with the mark. Now turn to Ezekiel 9. It is the Lord who instructs the unidentified man to mark certain people. He is to mark those who share God’s concern about the abominations (horrible sins) committed by the people of Jerusalem. God instructs his holy angels to go through the city, beginning at the temple and slay without mercy all except those with the mark. God marked them to protect them when the wrath of God is poured out in the final judgment.
Now read Revelation 7:3 where God withholds his judgment until all his own have God’s seal on their foreheads. Revelation says we are all going to have a mark, either the mark of God or the mark of the beast, Satan and the power of even. Why would we get so concerned about the mark of the beast when you have the mark of God?
Turn and read Revelation 9:1–6. Notice how the locusts are going to be a terrible plague on all the people except for those have the seal of God. This reminds me of the plagues in Egypt. The first 3 plagues touched both the Egyptians and the children of Israel. When the fourth plague came, (Exodus 8:20–24) it did not touch the people of Israel and God can do it again whenever he desires.
Then in chapter 20:1–10 we find Satan getting out of the pit for another shot at God’s people. Notice that when Satan is doing his worst, God is doing his best. In verse 9 the devil and his crew, surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. But instead of destruction, fire came down from heaven and consumed them and the beast (devil) is returned to the pit. Some of me have heard me say that the three word description of the Book of Revelation is, “Jesus always wins.” Chapter 20 is a great picture of this truth.
Jesus warned us about the dying gasp of Satan so we would not be confused about the winner of the battle between God and the beast. Remember: God is going to shorten the days for the sake of the elect. We have a future now and always.
Notice how our worship reflects the mark of God. In the baptismal service the sign of the cross is made upon the forehead and the heart to remind us of our victor. Making the sign of the cross is not a command from God. It is just good way for us to remember who has marked us and whom we serve. That is also the symbolism of making an ashes cross on those who desire on Good Friday.
I do not care if I cannot buy or sell because I don’t have the mark of the beast. I have and I will keep the mark of God––the Cross of Christ.
11–14–2020 End Times Bible Study #15, Lessons from Daniel & Revelation
Begin with prayer for the help of the Holy Spirit. Visions, dreams, messages with hidden meanings, all make it easier to be led astray. Use the Law–Gospel contrast to stay on the right track. How is sin showing itself in your appointed reading and how is God’s grace and mercy revealed to us.
The classic example in the Bible of apocalyptic writing is Revelation. The other book recognized as apocalyptic writing is Daniel. Daniel gives us some important lessons about proper interpretation of the dreams or visions which came from God. The name comes from the Greek word: apokálypsis, which means vision or hidden. It was primarily used from the time of the Babylonian Captivity and till 200 years after Jesus.
The closely related word, apocraphal, is the title given to works where there was doubt that the author was who they claimed to be. The Apocraphal Books which the Roman Catholics use were rejected by the Protestant Churches. There were a number of other writing which were rejected by all the Western Church, both Catholic and Protestant.
We begin with the lessons we can learn from Daniel. Daniel, chapter two, begins with a unique dilemma that Nebuchadnezzar presented to his wise men. He had a troubling dream and instead of telling them the dream and asking them what it meant, he said they had to tell him his dream and its interpretation or they would all be killed (2:5). When the wise men said that was impossible the king ordered all the wise men to be killed. When they came to carry off Daniel and his three friends off for the grand execution, Daniel asked the captain of why this was happening. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had a prayer meeting and God revealed both the dream and its meaning to Daniel. Daniel asked the for an opportunity to tell the king his dream and meaning.
Because Daniel knew the dream, the king believed his meaning was correct. Daniel ‘s God and Daniel were honored and he was placed as ruler over the whole province and the leader of the wise men. There are two lessons here. If someone claims God gave them a message, then I believe King Nebuchadnezzar was right to ask them, tell me the dream and its meaning. In the Bible God says if the person is a true prophet of God, 100% of his prophecies will be correct. Unless God reveals the meaning in the Scripture, be VERY WARY of the Bible teacher who says, “I can tell you what it all means.” Then they proceed to say this represents Russia, Israel, China or whatever. It is one thing to say, “This resembles ‘so and so’ now.” When they begin to say, “This proves, this or this proves that” when God has not identified its exact meeting, run from them.
Chapter 4 gives a second example of a dream from King Nebuchadnezzar which Daniel interprets by God’s help and it happens as he said. In chapter 5, Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall and his interpretation is correct. God used Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to reveal his glory to two different world leaders: Darius and Nebuchadnezzar. That was the purpose God had in mind when he created a family out of a dried up old man and a barren old women. They were to show the glory of God to the world so that others would seek to follow Yahweh. That by the way is God’s plan for us a well. Don’t seek to make yourself great! Seek to make God great in the world. Go back and see how Daniel did it in 2:27–30. That is our model. Daniel did not rob God of his glory and neither should we.
If you have read the book of Revelation recently, you would note how much of Daniel it expresses. Unless God explicitly says, “This means that” do not listen to them. I remember seeing a paper that was titled “242 Mistaken Predictions About the End.” If you could peruse all the languages of the world, I think you could probably find that many false predictions every year. The last 6 chapter of Daniel are written in Aramaic, the native tongue or heart language of the Babylonians. God continues trying to reach the whole world and now it is our money, our voices and our feet which God is using.
Now I’d like to show you several examples from Revelation which you need to remember. Lesson # 1: Many get off base because they don’t read carefully Rev. 1:1–3. Many people refer to Revelations (plural)
rather than Revelation (singular). So don’t let yourself get caught in the trap of looking for a multitude of different visions, which will show you exactly what is going to happen. In each vision you are to be looking for what is revealed about Jesus Christ. Remember my three word summary of Revelation: Jesus always wins.
We often underestimate the power of sin and the damage it has done to creation. That the various creatures we encounter look like a horror movie reminds us that sin is deadly and destructive. Good news: It cannot overcome the power of God and his grace to us.
Lesson # 2: God’s view of time is radically different than ours. In v. 1 it says it is about “things that must soon take place,” and v. 3 says “the time is near.” I must admit that I think 80+ years is a long time, but here we are almost 2,000 years later and the world is still in orbit around the sun.
Now read 1:4–8 noting the following: Communicating with us is the one who is, who was, and who is to come. This is easy to understand. Jesus IS. He is a real person who is really alive today, and who will return to earth for the day of judgment. He is not an imaginary person. He was a genuine human being and we will see him when he returns as did the people during his time on earth. In v. 4 it tells us that this grace and peace we receive from God is not only from him, but also from the seven spirits before the throne. Who are the seven spirits?
Notice the repetition of the number 7. Do not get hyped up on numerology, but 7 is considered a perfect number. It is the number of the earth, 4, and the number of God, 3, which totals 7: 7 churches (v. 4), 7 spirits (v.4), 7 golden lampstands (v. 12) , 7 stars (v. 16). In v. 11 we even find the names of the 7 churches. In v. 20 we learn the stars represent the churches angels and the lampstands represent the churches. Which one of the 7’s in not clearly identified: the seven spirits? I know of at least 3 suggested interpretation: 1. Angels are spirit beings so it is just another way of referring to the 7 angels. 2. It is an unusual way of referring to the Holy Spirit. 3. God uses angels to care for his children and his churches, so God has several angels working for each church, one on earth and another before the throne. Remember this simple rule: If God does not make a positive identity of something in his word pictures of horrible beasts, do not say you know what the answer is. Nor do you let someone else convince you that they have correctly and positively made the right choice with their suggestion.
Close with prayer. On Monday I will try to give you a summary of what I consider the most important things for you to remember on the topic of the End Times. And then on Tuesday we start our journey thru John’s Gospel. I believe John was the closest personal friend Jesus had among the disciples. After all, he entrusted the care of Mary to him. Your concerns and questions are welcomed at StrongInChrist@CFL.rr.com
The Gospel of John Series
11–17–2020 The Gospel of John, #1 The Introduction
Some of you may remember a previous study of the Gospel of John. When my computer’s hard drive was destroyed by lightening (as well as my free standing back up drive), I lost that study so this will be all new. I will not be printing out the Bible text. You are encouraged to read the Biblical material each time before you go through the notes.
My first request is for you to try to read through the complete Gospel of John before next Monday. I will be starting slowly in the amount of verses I cover this week. You need only read five chapter a day, plus six one day. Do not try to study as you read. Just try to get the sweep of the whole book. That will be very useful to you as the study continues.
This is the last biography of Jesus, written after the three synoptic Gospels. For centuries the common belief was that it was written by John the disciple of Jesus, one of the favored three (Peter, James, & John). He was also known as the disciple whom Jesus loved and to whom he entrusted the care of his mother while he was on the cross.
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) focus on the life and actions of the Jesus. John focuses more on the teachings of Jesus and his divinity. Approximately 90% of John’s gospel is unique from the other three. N. T. Wright, a New Testament Scholar, a Pauline Theologian, and an Anglican Bishop of Durham from 2003–2010 recently commented on the differences between John and the Synoptics.
Beginning of Dr. Wright’s Remarks
A divergence between John’s Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels is felt immediately upon turning to John 1:1, as the first words, “in the beginning,” take readers back to the start of everything—Genesis 1:1. By contrast, Mark’s Gospel takes readers quickly to the public ministry of Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel opens with a genealogy then moves on to stories surrounding the infancy of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel provides unique details of the birth of John the Baptist as well as Jesus, before offering a genealogy (Luke 3:23-38).
The Synoptic tradition wrestles early on with the human lineage of Jesus. But John’s Gospel goes back to the very beginning, describing Jesus, the Logos (“word”), as both equal to and distinct from the God of the Old Testament (“the Word was with God and the Word was God”). The entire prologue (1:1-18), functions like an overture to an opera, as John touches on themes that will be developed later in the book.
In addition to the opening picture of Jesus, another stylistic difference includes John’s dualistic language, demonstrated in contrasts such as: belief/rejection, light/darkness, truth/lie. John also connects the ministry of Jesus to the Jewish Calendar, with its various festivals, as Jesus is seen to visit Judea over a three-year period, in contrast to the one-time visit to Jerusalem as an adult (Palm Sunday), described in the Synoptics.
The three-year ministry of Jesus that John records is one example of how John’s narrative flow differs from that of the Synoptics. Noteworthy is the controversial cleansing of the temple which John records as happening early in the ministry of Jesus (Chap 2), as opposed to being part of the last week of Jesus’ life on earth as told in the Synoptics.
John’s Gospel does not recount the baptism of Jesus but describes the start of the Lord’s public ministry with the call of some disciples (1:35-51) and the turning of water to wine in Cana of Galilee (2:1-12). The first 12 chapters of John are known as the “Book of Signs,” as the Lord’s miracles (called “signs” by John) offer testimony to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.
The “Book of Glory” (Chap 13-20) focuses on the Lord’s imminent crucifixion, featuring lengthy discourses from Jesus directed to his disciples (e.g., The Farewell discourse in Chapters 14-16, following the washing of the disciples’ feet in Chap 13, preceding the Lord’s prayer for his disciples in Chap 17).
Only John has Jesus making pronouncements with a double “amen” (KJV: “verily, verily”), but there are more substantive differences in the words and actions of Jesus. In John’s Gospel we don’t see Jesus perform an exorcism (but note 12:31) whereas in the Synoptics that is a major feature of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus teaches in long discourses in John, but not using many parables. John has much unique material, such as the encounters with Nicodemus (John 3) and a Samaritan woman (John 4), as well as the washing of the disciples’ feet (John 13), but not instituting the Lord’s Supper. The post-resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene alone (John 20) is another idiosyncratic feature of John’s Gospel.
There are many more examples of John’s unique presentation of the words and deeds of Jesus, such as John being alone among the Gospels in reporting the promise of the coming paraclete (John 14-16) and the seven “I am” statements. Readers of the Gospels should explore this area more noting how John’s presentation of Jesus complements that of the Synoptics.
John is alone among the Gospels in reporting the promise of the coming paraclete and the seven ‘I am’ statements. (End of Dr. Wright’s comments.)
Aways begin and end Bible Study with prayer.
11–18–2020 Gospel of John # 2 –– John and Similarities with Synoptic Gospels
I hope you have started your reading of the complete gospel. Don’t try to study as you read. This first read is just to get you familiar with the whole book. That familiarity will help you get more out of study of the individual sections studies. Don’t forget to begin with prayer!
After that brief examination of some of the differences, we hasten to note that there are some similarities between the Synoptics and John’s Gospel. John’s basic story is the same: Israel’s Messiah is announced by John the Baptist, teaches, works miracles, runs into conflict with religious leaders, gets arrested and tried by Jewish and Roman officials, is crucified, but is resurrected from the dead.
Also, there are overlapping events between John and the Synoptics, such as: John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus feeding of over 5000 people, Jesus walking on water, Jesus’ friendship with Mary and Martha of Bethany, and many others.
In addition to the events, there are saying of Jesus that are shared with the Synoptics. A few examples are: A: Rebuilding the temple in three days (John 2:19//Mark 14:58). B: Prophets without honor (John 4:44//Mark 6:4). C: Receiving me and receiving the one who sent me (John 13:20//Matt 10:40). D: Predictions of betrayal (John 13:21-30, 38//Matt 14:18-22, 27-31).
Why are four unique representations of Jesus life in the Bible? The early church concluded that we needed the four presentations of Jesus that we have in the New Testament. Each author brings a unique perspective—stylistic as well as theological—to the story of Jesus. While we can confess that John’s Gospel is significantly different from the Synoptics, we can also admit that John’s portrayal adds to our understanding of how early Christians understood the person and message of Jesus.
Here is more information on John the disciple and author of the Gospel. John was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. His name means ‘Yahweh is salvation’. He was a son of Zebedee and a brother of the apostle James. Some have speculated that their mother was Salome. This connection comes by comparing Mark 15:40; 16:1 and Matthew 27:56. If she were the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother (John 19:25), then John and James would have been Jesus’ maternal first cousins; however, this is far from certain. Traditionally five books of the New Testament are attributed to John: the Fourth Gospel, three Johannine epistles and the book of Revelation.
John is not referred to often in the New Testament, but it must be remembered that we do not know very much about the exploits of any of the apostles apart from Peter and Paul. When John does appear in the biblical witness he is usually in the company of others. It is learned in the Synoptic Gospels that John and James, along with Peter and Andrew, were four of the first disciples Jesus called to follow Him (Mark 1:19-20; Matt. 4:21-22; Luke 5:1-11). John and James had worked with their father in a successful fishing business, for they had ‘hired servants’ to help them (Mark 1:20).
John, along with James and Peter, were Jesus’ ‘inner circle’. They are found with Jesus on several significant occasions: at the resuscitation of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37); on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1); and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). Unfortunately in the Garden they were overwhelmed with sorrow and fell asleep. What is significant, however, is that these were the men that Jesus wanted with Him at that moment of crisis. Furthermore, during the final week of Jesus’ life, John is mentioned along with Peter, James and Andrew as asking Jesus about the time of the destruction of the temple and the end of the age (Mark 13:3-4). Jesus also entrusted to John and Peter the preparations for His final meal in the upper room (Luke 22:8).
The Synoptic Gospels provide additional insight into John’s personality. His only recorded words in the Synoptic Gospels reveal something of an exclusive outlook: ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us’ (Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49). Jesus rebuked him for his elitist attitude. On another occasion John and James wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village that refused to show hospitality to Jesus (Luke 9:54). While their faith in God’s power is commendable, their aggressive dispositions revealed their continued need to develop more of Jesus’ character. It is not surprising that Jesus called James and John the ‘Sons of Thunder’ (Boanerges, Mark 3:17).
A similar incident occurred when John and James approached Jesus about sitting on His right and left in the kingdom (Mark 10:37). Jesus responded by telling them that these privileged positions were not His to give; however, Jesus predicted that they would drink the cup (of suffering) He would drink and be baptized with the baptism (of suffering) He would experience (Mark 10:35-40; Matt. 20:20-28). Jesus’ words to them came to pass as James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2) and the early chapters of Acts describe Peter and John being arrested. Toward the end of his life John would be exiled on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9).
In the book of Acts, John is listed among the twelve (Acts 1:13) and when James is executed the author notes that he was John’s brother (Acts 12:2). Every other reference to John in Acts finds him in the company of Peter. John and Peter are described as healing a lame man on their way to the temple to pray (Acts 3:1ff). The religious leaders arrest them for preaching about the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 4:1ff). These leaders saw them as ‘uneducated and untrained men’, but by this they meant they lacked formal rabbinic training; however, they did recognize them as ‘having been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Although commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus anymore, they demonstrated bravery by refusing to be silent. The last explicit reference to John in the book of Acts was when he and Peter were sent by the Jerusalem leadership to investigate the revival in Samaria under the ministry of Philip. When Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritans they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14). The only specific reference to John in the Pauline epistles is Galatians 2:9; when Paul described John, along with Peter and James (Jesus’ half-brother), as a pillar of the Jerusalem church.
The apostle John is not mentioned by name in the Fourth Gospel; however, the ‘sons of Zebedee’ are referred to in John 21:2. Many evangelical scholars understand the individual referred to as the ‘beloved disciple’ in the book to be the apostle John (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20, 24). The only person called ‘John’ in the Gospel is John the Baptist; however, his title (‘the Baptist’) is never used. This omission is highly unusual. However, since John the apostle is never mentioned by name there is no need to include ‘the Baptist’ to differentiate him from the apostle. Furthermore, Peter is associated with the beloved disciple in three instances (13:23-24; 20:2-9; 21:20-24) and a close connection between these two has been established in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. Therefore, while the evidence is not beyond dispute it seems reasonable to assume that the ‘beloved disciple’ and the apostle John should be understood as the same person.
The ‘beloved disciple’ is first mentioned in the Gospel as leaning back on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper and asking Jesus to identify His betrayer (13:23). The Gospel of Mark (14:17) makes clear that this meal was reserved for the twelve. The beloved disciple’s nearness to Jesus at the meal and the fact he could make inquiries for the other disciples indicates his relationship with Jesus was very close. As Jesus hung on the cross the beloved disciple along with Jesus’ mother stood nearby (19:25-27). Jesus entrusted His mother into this disciple’s care. Presumably this was because Jesus’ brothers did not yet believe in Him. This makes even more sense if perhaps John and Jesus were cousins. On the resurrection morning the beloved disciple and Peter ran to see the empty tomb (20:3-10). After examining the empty tomb John left believing that Jesus was alive, but he did not understand at that time the resurrection from the Scriptures (20:9).
The beloved disciple was present when Jesus appeared to a group of disciples at the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. After an unsuccessful night of fishing, Jesus asked them if they had caught anything. The beloved disciple recognized that it was Jesus standing on the shore speaking to them (21:7). Later, following a discussion between Jesus and Peter about the latter’s death, Peter asked Jesus about the beloved disciple’s future (21:22). Apparently some misinterpreted Jesus’ response (‘if I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?’) to mean that the beloved disciple would not die before Jesus’ second coming (21:23). When these words were written the beloved disciple in all probability was near death.
Below is the dedicated outline I have put together using mostly the outline of the ESV text. I encourage you to copy and print this outline of the first 5 chapters of John.
The Detailed Outline of John 1:1–5:47
Outline of The Gospel of John
Used in Facebook Bible Study of the Gospel of John, Beginning November 11, 2020
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION 1:1-51
- Introducing Jesus, the Christ: 1:1–18
- Jesus, the Word: 1:1–3
- Jesus, thelife and light: 1:4–13
- Jesus in the flesh: 1:14–15
- Jesus, the fullness of God’s grace: 1:16–18
- The witness of John: 1:19–34
- To Jesus the Messiah: 1:19–28
- To Jesus the Lamb and the Son: 1:29–36
- John’s Testimony about Jesus Baptism: 1:29–34
- John’s Tetimony to his disciples: 1:35–36
III. The first disciples: 1:37–51
- Andrew: 1:37–40
- Simon: 1:41–42
- Philip: 1:43–44
- Nathaniel: 1:45–51
PART TWO: PUBLIC MINISTRY 2:1-12:50
I The First Sign (Miracle) The Wedding at Cana: 2:1–12
II The First Authority Jesus exercised over the temple and the reactions: 2:13–25
- The cleansing of the temple: 2:13–17
- Reaction to the cleansing: 2:18–22
- Jesus’ Relationship with new believes: 2:23–25
III Conversation with Nicodemus: 3:1–21
IV Verification of Jesus by John the Baptist: 3:22–36
V The First Mission among the outcasts and ignored; The woman (Samaritans) at the well: 4:1–26
VI A teaching moment for the Disciples: 4:27–42
VII The return to Galilee and Jesus Second Sign: 4:43–54
- Going to Galilee: 4:43–45
- Healing of a nobleman’s son: 4:46–54
VIII. Healing, doing Good on the Sabbath: 5:1–17
- Healing on the Sabbath: 5:1–9
- Interaction of the Jews and the man who was healed: 5:10–17
- Jesus’ sermon on his authority: 5:18–47
- Jesus claims equality with God: 5:18
- The Son of Man defends his authority: 5:19–24
- The Son of Man will be the final judge: 5:25–29
- Jesus defends his position as judge of all: 5:30–47
- Feeding of the 5,000 men, + women and children: 6:1–15
- The setting: 6:1–4
- The problem: 6:5–7
- The feeding of the five thousand: 6:8–13
- Disappointing results: 6:14–15
- Fear into faithin the midst of a storm: 6:16–21
Don’t forget to close your study with prayer!
11–19–2020 John 1:1–8 Lesson # 3
I had hoped to give you a complete outline of John, but I am having difficulty with it because I have used several different outline as the basis for my outline. I think I am just going to have to retype the whole thing. I’ll get it to you ASAP.
I have had some ask me, “Why don’t we have a Lutheran translation of the Bible.” The reason is simple. A translation by only one denomination would be suspected of translating things in a way to favor one doctrine over another. We have always favored group translations where a mixture of various denominations have to agree on the translation.
Proof of this is the New World Translation which was prepared by the Jehovah Witnesses. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) was published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) in 1961. More than 220 million have been published by 2019 and distributed around the world. The WTBTS is also commonly known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible. Why did the WTBTS publish its own Bible and how accurate is the NWT?
The trustworthiness of any Bible translation depends upon the individual translators who worked on the translation. The contributors to the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version and the New King James Version are well known and publicized. However, one must search to discover the translators of the NWT. For example, the translators of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) are immediately identified at the front of the Bible, but the translators of the NWT are not listed. All that one discovers from the WTBTS literature is that the NWT was a translation made “by a committee of anointed witnesses of Jehovah.”
Eventually, the list of six translators became known. Frederick W. Franz was the main translator. Raymond Franz, who eventually left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, wrote the following in his book the Crisis of Conscience (1983) about his uncle Fredrick.
Fred Franz, however, was the only one with sufficient knowledge of the Bible languages to attempt translation of this kind. He had studied Greek for two years in the University of Cincinnati but was only self-taught in Hebrew.
It should be noted that Frederick Franz was Raymond Franz’s uncle and one of the WTBTS’ presidents. It is reported that Frederick Franz, the primary translator of the NWT, had only twenty-one hours of formal classical Greek training at the University of Cincinnati and only two hours of Biblical Greek or Koine Greek. This information was provided in Frederick Franz’s 1911 autobiography in which he published his own college transcript. It is important to note that Koine Greek is the language taught in theological seminaries for Biblical studies. The normal study course lasts for two years or four semesters. This means that the primary translator of the NWT was inadequately trained to perform the task of Bible translation.
I started with this background because John 1:1 is a classic example where their theology determined their translation. In John 1:1 where the NWT changed the normally accepted translation “the Word was God” to “the Word was a god.”
Here is the NWT translation. The NASB version occurs below it.
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. John 1:1 (NWT)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (NASB)
The NWT translation is driven by their belief that Jesus is not part of a triune Godhead. They do not believe in a trinity. They believe that Jesus was initially Michael the Archangel. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was neither a man nor god and eventually became a “mighty spirit” who now reigns as king.
Now lets us examine what 1:1–8 tells us. We immediately note the similarity of Genesis 1:1 with the phrase, “In the beginning….” This immediately connects Jesus with the eternal, the one who was before the earth was created. “In the beginning the Logos (Word) was already there. The Logos was with God, in fact he himself is God.
The theme is repeated in v. 2: “He was in the beginning with God,” but surprise, surprise, Jesus was not an observer of creation. He was a working partner in ALL of creation. To further declare this truth, nothing was made that he was not involved in creating.
This is not the end of the surprise. He is also the giver of life, and the life he gives is the light for humans. Even today as we contemplate the darkness which 2020 has been for us. When the darkness of those days came, the darkness could not overcome the light.
Now in verse 6–8 the person being described in not Jesus. It is John the Baptist. Since this is the Gospel of John, we would expect this clarification to appear. One of the interesting facts is that the author, John never used his name. He is simply “the other disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Since the other gospels where already circulating among the christians, they already knew the forerunner of Jesus was his cousin, John the Baptist. The gospel admits there had been confusion about real identity of both John and Jesus. As John will clearly declare as we continue in chapter 1, you will find significant words from John the Baptist.
Pray that you and the world will clearly see and always believe that Jesus was true God and true man.
11–21–2020 John Bible Study # 5, Read 1:14–18
After the dramatic prologue about the eternal, creating God, v. 9 hinted at the explosive news (“The true light …was coming into the world.”). Although he created the world, the world didn’t know him. He came to his own (v. 11) but they did not receive him. However, there were some who received him because they believed him and so they were granted admission into the family of God. They were not born like humans are conceived and born. This is a different birth which will be discussed more in detail in chapter 3.
Now we are where our study for today begins in v. 14. It reveals the classic Christian doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God describes “a love so amazing, so divine” that it seems downright paradoxical; and so it is.
The classic doctrine states that the eternal second person of the Holy Trinity, himself of “one substance” with the Father, “became flesh.”
John’s choice of the Greek word “sarx” (flesh) may have been intended to rout early Docetists who regarded Jesus’ humanity as a phantom, a mere appearance. In any case, John insists on Jesus’ flesh. The high one became a low one. The one who had lived in triplicate hospitality and verve, in a constant outpouring of spirit upon spirit, became flesh—real flesh, fully and completely human, except without sin.
The one who had existed from all eternity is born of a woman. The omniscient second person of the Trinity now has to “grow in knowledge and favor” (cf. Luke 2:40, 52) with human beings and, even after much growth, still does not know when the end of the world will happen (cf. Matt. 24:36).
In some towns the omnipotent Son of God cannot get anybody to believe. There is a gap between the divine and the human. That is why we refer to Jesus’ conception and birth as the beginnings of his “Humiliation.” That stage ends with his resurrection and then ascension back to the heavens.
Of all the paradoxes of the incarnation, think about the paradox of Jesus Christ’s glory—“the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). How hard it is to see real glory when we think glory is all about making a splash! We miss the real thing because we get our standards from people who have glory mixed up with publicity—people like pro athletes and entertainers, or hard-charging winners in business who then want to star in their own TV show.
In ordinary life, glory is reputation, and it is built on publicity and peer review by people just as fouled up as we are. John has a different view of glory. In his Gospel, Jesus changes water to wine at a wedding to make people joyful. He washes his disciples’ feet, hoping to model and ignite a heart of service in them. He feeds the disciples bread at the table where they reclined—including Judas—and then submits himself to arrest.
In all three cases—the wine (chap. 2), the bathwater (chap. 13), the bread for a traitor (chap. 13)—the evangelist tells us that it was a sign of his glory. This is a glory he shares with his Father. Jesus makes lots of wine at Cana because he comes from a wine-making family. Every fall God turns water into wine in France and Chile and the Napa Valley. C. S. Lewis said that at Cana Jesus just did a small, speeded-up version of what God does all the time in the great vineyards of the world.
Glory in the wine of Jesus, and glory in the washbasin of Jesus. Has not God always been humble to serve us, even when our sin has led us into terrible trouble? “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 51:1–2).
Jesus on his knees before his disciples is just doing what he sees his Father doing, and the gospel finds glory here, because it is so much like God humbly to clean people up. Bread for a traitor? Does not God do this all the time—sending rain on the fields of unjust people so that their crops will grow and they will grow too as they feed on God’s gifts? Jesus hands Judas a piece of bread because he just does what he sees his Father doing, and the gospel finds glory here, because it is so much like God to feed enemies even while you oppose their evil.
The gospel finds glory where we are not looking—in the wine, and the water, and the bread, and even in the
blood of Jesus. In John 12 death is in the air. The Son of Man will die and fall into the earth in an event so devastating that it will seem to turn creation back into chaos; but Jesus says that this is the hour in which the Son of Man will be glorified. We grope for his meaning. Getting glorified on a cross? Is that like getting enthroned on an electric chair? Is it like being honored by a firing squad?
Glory in the cross of Jesus Christ sounds almost grotesque. Jesus, the friend of sinners, was crucified between his kind of people in a godforsaken place where all the lights go out from noon to three. Yet the gospel wants us to find glory in this disaster, because Jesus Christ is pouring out his life for the world God loves.
The Word became flesh, full of grace and truth. Full of grace upon grace, grace added to grace, grace following hard after grace. Full of truth too—of faithfulness, reliability, unwavering favor. None of this is different from the grace and truth that are God’s signature virtues among the children of Israel. He makes his Father known in a way expected from a Son who is “close to the Father’s heart” (v. 18b).
New Testament scholar Rudolf Schnackenburg has written: “The absolute term flesh is not merely a circumlocution for human being … but in Johannine thinking an expression for what is earthly and limited, frail and transitory.”
In other words, for the Logos to become flesh means that God has not drawn near to us as an invulnerable human being. He does not stride through life moving from one victory to another. The orthodox teaching of “fully divine and fully human” does not imply a person who is one of us, while at the same time not one of us. The enfleshed Logos is human as we are: He get tired, hungry, disappointed and often misunderstood. The one without whom “not one thing came into being” (1:3) is now acted upon by the very things created through him. He is now subject to economic downturns, to governmental oppression, to pain in both body and soul.
As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Christ does not succumb to the temptations to which flesh is subject, but he does understand and experience completely human frailty and need.
So here in this little word, “flesh,” we see a foreshadowing of Christ’s pastoral encounters and the signs of his identity: the healing of the official’s son (4:50–54), the paralytic at Bethesda (5:1–18), and the man born blind (9:1–17), and weeping at Lazarus’s grave (11:33–37). God has identified with us in all of our pain and infirmity. This is a God who will not shun the brokenness of our human situation.
Perhaps it is the second part of verse 14 that may strike some of us as the oddest statement. It is in the very taking up of the human frailty of flesh that “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Reflecting upon this passage, Karl Barth twice identifies the miraculous with God’s mercy:
So we say that when the Word becomes flesh, we are concerned with a miracle, an act of God’s mercy.
There takes place in the created world the unforeseen, that which could not be constructed or postulated from the side either of the world or of God, the work of the love of God to a world distinct, nay divided from Him, to a creature which He does not need, which has nothing to offer Him, to which He owes nothing, which rather is permanently indebted to Him for everything, which has forfeited its existence in His eyes.
The pastoral implications of this relationship between miracle and mercy are immense. God’s glory is not separated from God’s mercy. To be even more precise, God’s glory is best known in God’s mercy. To anticipate the example of Lazarus’s return from death, in the Word becoming flesh we see that God’s strength and beauty are made known as much in Jesus’ weeping as in his ability to raise Lazarus from the dead. God is seen, God is made known (v. 18) in Jesus’ tears as much as in his shout for Lazarus to “come out!”
The incarnation is not merely something that happened once and then was finished. The Logos becoming flesh summons the church to seek its Savior in the places of weakness and infirmity. If Christ’s church would participate in the ongoing mission of God, it must abide with the widows and the orphans, the addicts and the felons. If the enfleshed Logos has revealed the “Father’s heart” (v. 18b), then God abides and can be found only where human brokenness is understood and forgiven, not shunned.
We are broken creatures who have found healing in Christ and as we share that with others, they too find healing and strength for life. The devil’s great deception which he easily get the world to believe is that the church and church people think they are better than most of the people in the world. Tragically, he even gets some who know Jesus as a friend of sinners, to believe that lie also.
This is why it is necessary for us to regularly join in confessing our sinful nature. It helps us remember we are a part of this sin damaged world and can only find healing through the mercy of God, not by any self help program. We need the God saves program and boot strap religion. People who try to pull themselves out of the muck of sin only sink in deeper.
Pray God will help you to see glory in the mercy and miracles of God.
11–23–2020 John Bible Study # 6 – 1:19–34 The Testimony of John
AN APOLOGY: In the next to last sentence of the last paragraph before the reminder to pray the word “not” got lost. It should read: “We need the God saves program and NOT boot strap religion.” Forgive my carelessness.
To understand the life of John the Baptist, go back to Luke 1:5–25; 39–80. In those verses you will hear from both the father and mother of the Baptizer. Also note how John witnessed to the Christ even before he was born.
Then note Luke1:80 how he spent the majority of his life in the wilderness until he begins announcing the Messiah has come.
In verses 6–8, 15 the evangelist has indicated the purpose of the ministry of John the Baptist; namely, to focus the attention of everyone upon the true light, Jesus Christ, as the object of faith. We are not told how John began his ministry. An interesting comment I read is that there is more material about the Baptist than about Jesus in secular writings of that time.
We do know he attracted the attention of religious leaders in Jerusalem who sent representatives to ask him, “Who are you?” In the paragraph which we are now studying we receive a detailed account of the Baptist’s testimony as given before a committee sent by the Sanhedrin. John did not try to take honor from Jesus and said, “I am not the Christ (Messiah)?
Throughout the late Old Testament period and particularly in intertestamental Judaism, hope in a coming messiah was widespread. In the days of Greek and Roman oppression (a period of over 300 years), the term “Messiah” (or Christ) was filled with political connotations. John declares firmly that this is not his identity.
The Old Testament prophet Elijah was to precede the coming Messiah according to Malachi 4:5. If John were not the Messiah, perhaps he was Elijah. Because Elijah had been taken from the earth without dying (2 Kings 2:11) Jewish speculation proposed that he was mysteriously alive and would return at the end of time (cf. Mark 8:28).
John says clearly he is not Elijah. One difficulty with this is that in Matt. 11:14 Jesus says that John is “Elijah who was to come.” The solution is that John was fulfilling the forerunner’s role of Elijah as Luke explains, “In the spirit and power of Elijah he will go forth before him” (1:17). John on the other hand is denying that he is Elijah who has returned to the earth.
“The Prophet” probably refers to Deut. 18:15–19 where a prophet “like Moses” is promised to return to Israel. This led to enormous Jewish speculation concerning who this prophet would be and in some cases led to a conflation with the image of the Messiah. John’s answer is succinct: No.
Following this series of denials John now affirms his identity. He is “a voice” and here the Baptist quotes Isaiah 40:3 in order to identify his role in Jesus’ mission. He does not elevate himself as having a stature of importance and never identifies his own name. He is a tool in the hand of God pointing to another on the horizon.
Ritual washings for ceremonial cleansing were familiar to Jews. But baptism was generally reserved for gentiles who had converted to Judaism. It was a total cleansing that marked a threshold crossed. John was calling Jews to be baptized (1:26) and of course this prompted the question, “What is the threshold? What is the new order that would change us as Jews?”
The promise on the horizon is not a new religion but a person (1:26–27). John describes him as so great that by comparison, he (though a prophet) will be less than a slave. Untying a sandal thong was a chore never done by disciples for their teacher. It was a chore reserved for slaves according to Jewish tradition. John says he is unworthy even to do the work of a slave for this One who is coming.
The two paragraphs which follow this one (1:29–34 and 1:35–42) contain a record of his testimony; respectively, before a group of people who are not identified, and before two of his disciples. In the light of the lofty descriptions of the Christ and the exalted titles given to him by the Baptist in 1:27, 29–36 it is easy to see why the evangelist has included this material in his book.
Its inclusion is in harmony with his main purpose as stated in 20:30, 31. It is not the appearance of the Baptist, his manner of life, his preaching as such, the excitement which he created, or even his baptizing, that is emphasized by the author of the Fourth Gospel. He seems to take for granted that the readers are acquainted with all this from oral tradition and from the reading of the Synoptics.
It is very specifically the testimony of the Baptist with reference to Christ that forms the theme of these paragraphs. And he points out that this testimony, in turn, rests upon divine revelation (1:31–34). John’s knowledge of the coming one was not innate knowledge (1:31–33). It was knowledge that had come to him through revelation—when the Spirit descended on Jesus” (1:32) (John, 1:137). True knowledge of God is beyond human reach: it is a gift of divine disclosure.
Jesus is first described as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (29). Every interpreter finds this phrase to be difficult because the words “lamb of God,” while commonplace in Christian vocabulary, do not appear elsewhere in the New Testament except here and 1:36. The crux is understanding what “lamb” (Gk: amnos) means. For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice was a memorial of deliverance (esp. Isaac’s deliverance), forgiveness of sin, and messianic salvation.
It is possible that John had the Passover lamb in mind in the present context. Here we have the notion that Jesus is a gift provided by God to take away sin. As long as the Temple was in existence, the children of Israel knew that each morning and each evening, a lamb was sacrificed to renew and restore their relationship with God.
In 1:30 John characterizes Jesus as one who was “before him.” This statement repeats an almost identical phrase in 1:15 which declares the importance of Jesus to be not in what he does, but in who he is. This is one of many christological affirmations in the gospel which associate Jesus clearly with God.
Unlike the narration of Jesus’ baptism in the Synoptic Gospels, John does not emphasize the voice from heaven nor the baptism in the river. Instead, John’s second testimony refers to the coming of the Spirit on Christ (1:32ff.). The appearance of the Spirit was common in the OT, but it appeared mainly among designated leaders (such as the king or a judge or a prophet) and remained only for the duration of their God-appointed work. John the Baptist’s comment is telling: the Spirit descended and remained upon him. This is a permanent anointing, unlike anything witnessed before in Judaism; this is the messianic anointing.
John the Baptist’s last testimony in this day appears in 1:34, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” This goes to the heart of John’s testimony about Jesus: this Messiah is known by his unique anointing, his unparalleled identity in the Spirit of God. John the Baptist has completed his personal witness. In humility he has deflected glory and interest away from himself—and drawn attention to Jesus, describing powerfully who he is and what he will do.
Pray that like John we will not seek honor for ourselves but live to bring glory to God. We honor him for who he is, Lord and master of heaven and earth.
11–25–2020 Read: John 2:1–12 Bible Study # 8
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I do not know what is wrong with Facebook (or possibly me) at the moment.
Not only are Lessons 3 & 4 missing, I don’t see lessons 6 & 7 either. Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
and I can email them to you. I’d like to figure out what I’m doing wrong before reposting everything.
NO POST TOMORROW ON THANKSGIVING DAY. It will be a family day for me. I’ll try to get this all
straigntened out by Monday or offer an alternate way for you to get the studies. Meanwhile here are several
additional pieces of information on the Gospel. The first one is an addition to Lesson #7 which took us to the
end of Chapter 1.
ADDITION TO CHAPTER 1: The “Word” (Greek logos) is the first of a number of titles given to Jesus in the
first chapter of this gospel. Note the others: “the Light” (1:7-9); “only Begotten Son” (1:14, :18); (Jesus)
“Christ” (1:17); “the Lord” (1:23); “Lamb of God” (1:29, 1:36); “Master” (1:38); “King of Israel” (1:49); “Son
of God” (1:34, 1:49); “Son of man” (1:51); Messiah” (1:41). Probably, “the Word of God” (a phrase used 1200
times in the Old Testament) is the most meaningful. Note Psa_33:6; Heb_11:3; 2 Pe_3:5.
This writer is fond of using the number 7. In this Gospel we have 7 Signs and the 7 “I am” sayings. Then the
book of Revelation we have the letters to the 7 churches. We will discuss them as we cross their paths. Since the
signs are probably the least known, I am listing them for you here: 1. Changing water into wine in Cana (2:1–
11). 2. Healing an official’s son in Capernaum (4:46–54). 3. Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in
Jerusalem (5:1–18). 4. Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (6:5–14). 5. Walking on the water of the Sea of
Galilee (6:16–21). 6. Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1–7). 7. Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany (11:1–45).
The setting now changes from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee (Capernaum and Bethsaida), to the hills in
the west, a small village four miles northeast of Nazareth called Cana. [There seems to have been several
villages known at Cana and we cannot say for certain which is correct.]
Jesus and his disciples appear at a wedding and when asked, he performs his first “sign,” changing water into
wine. Earlier we learned that Nathanael was from Cana and the village’s proximity from Nazareth makes it
natural for members of Jesus’ family to be there as well.
Weddings were momentous events in the village culture of Palestine, planned well in advance and attended by
the entire village. In some respects, they were the chief celebrations enjoyed in the year and thus provided the
imagery for messianic celebration and joy as well. When Jews reflected on what heaven or the arrival of the
Messiah would be like, they thought about banquets, and the wedding banquet especially. Following a public
betrothal, which was far more permanent than a modern engagement, the family would announce the wedding
date, and elaborate preparations were made for a ceremony that could last for as long as a week (Judges 14:12).
The parable of the wise and foolish maidens (Matt. 25:1) supplies a useful backdrop for the nighttime
procession of the groom who would walk with his friends to the bride’s home, collect her, and then lead a
procession back to his home where celebrations would begin.
The gift given the couple was chosen carefully in order to bring honor on the couple and their families. In fact,
legal ramifications followed when appropriate custom was not followed because it implied public shame on the
couple. This gives us an interesting insight into the concern of the servants when the feast suddenly runs out of
Mary’s news in v. 3 (“They have no more wine”) elicits an unexpected response from Jesus, “Woman, why do
you involve me?” The English tone of this seems harsh, but it is simply formal—Jesus uses the same form of
address (“woman”) for the woman of Samaria (4:21), the woman caught in adultery (8:10), his mother at the
cross (19:26), and Mary at the tomb (20:15).
Nevertheless, it is unusual for him to address his mother this way when other titles would be preferred. Mary
wants him to take some responsibility for finding a solution to the wedding’s problem. In some sense, she is
presuming on her relationship with him as her son (Luke 2:51). But Jesus redefines this: he cannot act under her
authority but must instead follow the course that has been determined for him by the heavenly Father.
If she had interpreted Jesus’ words as derogatory or an insult, she would not have instructed the servants, “Do
whatever he tells you.” Jesus must have said or done something to make it clear that he will do something
which is why she says what he says.
The story gives us an important clue as to its meaning when we discover that six stone jars will be the source of
the new wine. The note that they are stone is a signal that they are for Jewish purification washings (see Mark
7:1–4). Clay jars could become ritually contaminated and have to be destroyed (Lev. 11:33); but stone jars,
according to Rabbinic law, could not. The six jars held considerable volume: each had the capacity for over 20
gallons. Since Jesus has the stewards fill them to the brim, his miracle is about to produce over 120 gallons of
The stewards are directed to bring some of the miraculous wine to the head steward. He makes a
pronouncement with telling significance. Common sense teaches that in most banquets, the best wine is served
first—and then, when the guests have drunk their fill, the cheaper wine can be served (2:10).
It simply tells us that when palates are more sensitive, superior wine will be more fully enjoyed (and cheaper
wine more quickly noticed). The point is that Jesus is delivering something to the banquet quite unexpected.
And it is superior to anything the banquet has witnessed before.
In 2:11–12, we find John’s commentary on the event. He consistently refers to Jesus’ mighty works as “signs”
which unveil that God is at work in Jesus and indeed is present in him. Jesus is not merely a man—he is more.
He conveys the presence of God in the world and shows forth God’s glory.
When the wedding is over, Jesus and his followers and family return to Capernaum (2:12). Capernaum is
“below” Cana (he went “down”) in the sense that Cana is located in the hills of western Galilee while
Capernaum is a coastal town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Capernaum was the home base of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Matthew even refers to it as “his town” (9:1). As a
small village on the main north-south highway through Galilee, Capernaum enjoyed wide recognition and easy
access to travelers.
The Wedding at Cana shows us the difference between God’s help and man’s help. Man’s help is too often only
enough to get by. God’s help provides more than imagined. Pray for eyes and faith to see God’s help. This farm
boy from Nebraska would never have connected with that wonderful Florida girl from Pensacola without his
running interference for me. I have been specially blessed by having Marge as my wife. I certainly got more
blessings from having her as my wife than she did by having me as her husband.
I hope you remember to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the special blessings God has given you as you
celebrate Thanksgiving today.
11–26–2020 Thanksgiving Day A Day for Family –– No Post Today
11–27–2020 John 2.13–25, Bible Study # 9
John used the annual celebration of the Passover to reveal the story of Jesus, to proclaim his deity and authority. There are disagreements between Bible teachers on how many cleansings of the temple Jesus does because of the different way the Gospels present the story.
The Synoptic Gospels have Jesus cleaning the temple when he enters Jerusalem during the last week of his life before the crucifixion. None of them mention a cleansing at the beginning of his public ministry as John does. John does not record the cleaning of the temple during what we call Holy Week, when Jesus died on the cross.
Modern Bible critics therefore say there was only one cleansing of the temple because they treat the Bible as an ordinary book. Each Gospel has a theological focus so some would say John put the cleansing at the beginning of his story because that fit his purpose better.
Now we know that exact chronology was more difficult in those days because there were no newspapers, radio or television. Only the life record of the famous, and not all of them, were preserved. Now you can use local weekly and daily papers to find life histories of many more ordinary people.
Conservative Bible teachers start with the assumption that the Bible is correct. When you look at biographies printed today we often find more than one about prominent individuals. They also pick and choose which events they will write about. Not all of them include exactly the same stories, although they may many similar stories. They also have different views on the meaning of these events which may be reveal their like or dislike for a person.
There are three categories of biographies most people recognize. There is the biography where someone other than the person writes the story of the person, either living or dead. There is the autobiography where the individual write the story of their life. The third category is the authorized biography. This is the life story told by the person through the writing of another person. However, if the biography is authorized it means that the person about whom it was written had a say in what was included or omitted.
I see another form becoming more popular today. I was their friend, coworker, or knew them before they were famous. If there is an official name for this kind of biography, I do not know it. I would call it the “Let me tell you what they are really like biography.” We readily admit the Four Gospels of the Bible were all written by those friendly to Jesus. Our reason for their value is the doctrine of Inspiration. The Holy Spirit guided them to preserve the true story of Jesus.
Every male in Palestine was expected to make a trip to Jerusalem every year after their barmitzvah as long as their health permitted them to do so. The tabernacle was important for the Exodus because that was how God showed his presence among the people. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night showed God was with them.
The pattern of the tabernacle became the pattern of the temple in its design and significance for the people of Israel. We will discuss the significance of the Exodus, the Passover, and the Sacrificial system as we come to these stories in John. Let’s return to the Scriptures now.
This story of the temple cleansing finds a parallel in the other gospels (Matt. 21:12–13; Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46). But there are a number of differences both of vocabulary and theme between John and the synoptics: John alone mentions oxen, sheep, and the whip of cord as well as the command to depart. The synoptics provide a scripture citation (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11) but John does not have Jesus citing the scriptures.
The most important difference has to do with time. The synoptics place the temple cleansing at the end of the ministry of Jesus while John introduces it at the beginning. For the synoptics, this event is the catalyst which galvanizes the temple’s opposition to Jesus. John has the episode launching his public ministry in Judea.
Chronology issues have inspired much debate over the historical value of these narratives. The first question is whether John and the synoptics are recording the same story. Scholars who conclude that there was only one temple cleansing often quickly say that John’s sequencing is incorrect and the synoptic account is accurate. Other writers point out numerous differences between the two cleansings and suggest that the best reconstruction would have Jesus cleansing the temple twice. I support this view.
Jesus’ attendance at Passover (2:13) evidences his dedication to the festivals of Judaism. John’s gospel mentions three Passovers (2:13; 6:4; and 11:55) and this is often the basis of measuring the duration of Jesus’ ministry. Passover was an annual festival celebrated each spring during the first full moon following the spring equinox, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month of Nisan.
It was followed by the week-long Festival of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15–22) and retold the story of Israel’s departure from Egypt. Israelite families were spared when the angel of death “passed over” their homes which had been marked by the sacrifice of a lamb (Exod. 12).
In his anguish, Pharaoh released the Israelites—who fled to Mt. Sinai through the wilderness. Over the centuries Passover had become a pilgrimage festival in which Jewish families were expected to travel to Jerusalem and participate in sacrifice, a symbolic meal, and reflective study of Israel’s salvation.
Since approved animals were required for sacrifice, a sizable business flourished in the city at this time of year, making the temple a place of commerce rather than a house of worship. In addition, Jewish men (over twenty) were required to pay a half-shekel annual tax at the temple. Jesus had no objection to this since we have a record that he paid the tax himself (Matt. 17:24–27).
The presence of money changers met a legal requirement that all donations be made in the coinage of Tyre (as stipulated in the oral law, later penned as the Mishnah). This rule was not to avoid pagan images on foreign coins (the coins of Tyre have them as well), but to insure the quality and purity of the money coming into the treasury.
Jesus’ anger is not provoked by supposed wholesale greed or craft, but by the fact that these transactions are occurring in the temple at all. “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (2:16) is a prophetic command to return the temple to its intended use: worship, prayer, instruction, and pious sacrifice.
When his followers see this outrageous spectacle (2:17), they think of Psalm 69:9, “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me.” Theologically John is indicating to us two things. First, Jesus is acting out of his relationship with the Father. As Messiah and God’s Son, when he sees the human ruin of God’s house, he is overwhelmed with a desire to act.
Second, Jesus is working out the purposes of God which he knows so well have been outlined already in God’s Word. The cleansing or challenging of the temple is a frequent OT theme in which complete renewal of Israel in the Day of the Lord is linked with the renewal of the temple (Jer. 7:11; Zech. 14:21; Mal. 3:1; Isa. 56:7).
Even though John does not cite the Old Testament frequently (compared, say, with Matthew), the Old Testament scriptures are employed at the major junctures of Jesus’ life, defining his activity at every important turn.
Curiously, Jesus does not refer to the deficiencies of the temple, but instead refers to his own destruction and resurrection, “Destroy this temple and raise it up.” As is typical in so many of the Johannine narratives (see 3:3ff; 4:10ff; 6:41ff; 11:11ff; 14:7ff etc.), Jesus’ audience misunderstands him and thinks he is referring (ironically) to the Jerusalem temple.
In 20 B.C. Herod the Great began a massive rebuilding program at the temple in order to placate his Jewish subjects who despised him as an outsider (Herod was Idumean). The new temple would rival that of Solomon. In order to assure purity, 1000 priests were trained as stone cutters and architects. A total of 18,000 men worked full time until it was finished in A.D. 64.
That Jesus would demolish such a structure—the product of forty-six years’ construction—and rebuild it in three days seemed ridiculous (2:20). But such a word is not as strange as we might think. In Judaism in this period, many spiritual leaders expected that a new temple would be built and that the present temple in Jerusalem would be replaced.
But Jesus was referring to his body, which would later function in the place of the temple. The confusion that appears at Jesus’ trial (Mark 14:58) concerning Jesus’ warning of destruction and his promise of a new temple (“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ”).
Jesus’ teachings in the Fourth Gospel regularly use cryptic statements that have double meaning (similar in some respects to his parabolic teachings in the synoptics). It will be Jesus’ death and resurrection that will create a new covenant with God, thereby making the services of the Jerusalem temple obsolete.
During this Passover many become interested in Jesus. However, we should not make too much of this. The basis of their faith was signs. But throughout the gospel, such faith that is predicated on God showing evidence of himself is criticized.
John uses the same Greek word (pisteuo) for “believe” in v. 23 and in v. 24. John is making a statement here about Jesus and humanity generally. He understood about all of humanity and its capacity for deception and duplicity. No one needed to explain it to him (24a). God alone knows the hearts of men and women—but now Jesus has this same capacity.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you see the connection of the Old Testament and the New Testament. It will do much to improve your understanding of the Bible.
11–28–2020 John 3.1–15 Bible Study # 10
In chapter 3, John presents another view of Jesus and his mission. Nicodemus steps forward as a representative of those in Jerusalem who had witnessed the work of Jesus in chapter 2. Moreover, Nicodemus represents an institution within Judaism: the rabbis or teachers of the law.
These were men who specialized in knowing the law, who led in the synagogue worship and instruction, and served as spiritual guides. The synoptics record many struggles with these people; this is Jesus’ first encounter in the Gospel of John.
The story of Nicodemus begins a series of encounters between Jesus and the people he understands so completely (2:24): a Samaritan woman (4:1–26), a Gentile official (4:43–53), and a crippled man at Bethsaida (5:1–15). It also serves as a twin with the Samaritan woman story to follow in chapter 4 (just as Cana is a twin story to the temple cleansing in chapter two).
Nicodemus is a Jew, a man, and from the higher social strata of society; in chapter 4 we meet a Samaritan, a woman, and someone from lower social strata. Nicodemus could boast in his righteousness. The Samaritan woman stands as a sinner.
The irony of the comparison is the relative success that Jesus discovers with each. Those least ready to understand and accept (the woman) finally embrace Jesus. And the theologian who comes at night (Nicodemus) offers Jesus nothing but questions.
No doubt Jesus and Nicodemus talked long into the night and not merely the two or three minutes it takes to read this chapter. Therefore John has built an artificial story structure that represents the essence of their conversation. In Johannine discourses throughout the gospel, questions are posed to Jesus in order to transport the story onto a higher plane of discussion.
The questioner is often blissfully—and ironically—ignorant of what is being asked of him or her and this leads to dramatic misunderstandings. Note how Nicodemus steps onto the stage three times to make inquiries (3:1, 4, 9) and each of these questions permit Jesus a fuller explanation of his views.
Note also how Nicodemus uses ironic misunderstanding, “Can I enter a second time into my mother’s womb?!” (3:4). The notion in this and so many other discourses is that unless some deficit is met (generally faith or the Spirit), deeper penetration into the words of Jesus is impossible.
The name “Nicodemus” (3:1) has a Greek origin, but is well-attested among first century Jews. He is a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin as well as a distinguished teacher. Nicodemus appears two other times in the Fourth Gospel as a defender of Jesus’ interests, first at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:50–52) and later at Jesus’ burial with Joseph of Arimathea (19:39). In each case he blends a mix of curiosity, courage, and timidity.
Since the Pharisees had a limited involvement in the temple operations, it would not have concerned him (possibly even amused him) that Jesus had just upset the markets in the temple courts. On the other hand, if he was politically savvy, he may have seen this act of Jesus as politically explosive and dangerous.
He was also a rabbi (3:1, 10). In 3:10 Jesus refers to him as “the teacher” (not “a” teacher) of Israel. Therefore he must have a distinguished reputation in Jerusalem. When the rabbi comes to Jesus at night (3:2) it may simply refer to his desire for privacy stemming from fear of the temple authorities. On the other hand, “night” is likely a theological symbol (used frequently by John) which expresses Nicodemus’ spiritual relation to the truth.
Darkness often refers to the realm of evil, untruth, and unbelief in John (9:4; 11:10). The only other actor who appears at night is Judas Iscariot who departs to betray Jesus (13:30). Nicodemus is a man of the darkness while Jesus is the light (1:4, 8). But here, he has made a serious choice: he has stepped into the light to make inquiries.
Nicodemus’ respect for Jesus is evident in his first question (3:2). He acknowledges Jesus as a teacher (despite Jesus’ lack of credentials, 7:15) and is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: his activities must come from God; Jesus’ efforts must have some divine endorsement. This is an “opener” launched by one theologian to another.
But rather than joining Nicodemus by answering his question, Jesus forces the rabbi to move to another level of inquiry (3:3). Jesus is not interested in the divine authentication of signs, but in the reality of someone’s relationship with God. Nicodemus has to keep up, he has to choose to follow Jesus’ lead or retreat back into the dark.
Two terms require definition. Although the OT does not use the phrase “kingdom of God” in full, still, the notion of God’s sovereign, kingly rule is implicit throughout the Jewish scriptures (Ps. 103:19). The scriptures also predicted a final kingdom that was coming at the end of time, a kingdom of grand dimensions supervised by a descendent of David (Isa. 9:1–7; Zech. 9:9–10) or Isaiah’s Servant of the Lord (42:1–9; 49:1–26).
Judaism taught that this was to be a future kingdom. “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” represent the most frequent themes in Jesus’ synoptic teachings, occurring over ninety times in separate contexts.
But Jesus gives a new prerequisite to see or enter this kingdom. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
The Greek word translated “again” can also signify “from above.” In order to enter the kingdom—in order to understand divine revelations such as this—one must have an experience which transports beyond the mere observation of “signs.”
The notion of divine birth would have been understood by someone with a Hellenistic background (and later Greek readers of John would have recognized it easily) since divine regeneration was a frequent idea there. But if we keep the historicity of the episode intact, we have to ask what a Jew of Nicodemus’ background would have understood.
Of course, Judaism was thoroughly Hellenized in this era and Nicodemus would have understood the language of non-Jewish faiths much like we understand the language of Muslim and Jew. Proselytes in Judaism were often called newly born children. But the language used by Jesus would have seemed unusual to Nicodemus. Jesus is driving at something comprehensive, a complete renewal of the whole person.
Nicodemus’ next question (3:4) may be pensive (“Can human nature really be changed? Can we really start over?”) or skeptical (“And I should return to my mother’s womb? I don’t think so.”). Above all it shows that Nicodemus is outside the kingdom and that he cannot penetrate its deeper truths. And so Jesus must explain more fully (3:5–8). “Birth from above” is now defined as “birth from water and Spirit.”
I believe this is a great picture of Sacramental Baptism. Sacramental Baptism sees God as the worker. Believer’s Baptism see the human as the worker in Baptism. We can say water is a symbol. The second fastest way to die from natural causes is the lack of water. You can die more quickly from the lack of air than water, but lack of food is a slow and painful death. But don’t call Baptism only a symbol because the Spirit of God is working in it and through it. It is a great gift from God.
Scholars have long been puzzled by this important phrase. But the best way to understand it is to see “water and Spirit” is as a unified concept to express the eschatological renewal promised in the Old Testament. The prophets in particular described a coming era when the transforming Spirit of God would be poured out generously on all 0people (Joel 2:28; Isa. 32:15–20).
Sometimes this renewal is described metaphorically as water. Isaiah 44:3 illustrates this perfectly, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.” Here we can see how water and spirit are easily joined as the life-giving gifts of God. Ezekiel 36:25–27 is an important read for the power and blessing God gives through water and the Spirit.
But above all, Nicodemus must understand that this era will be an era when the Spirit of God moves among humanity. Jesus compares this with the wind, another Greek wordplay, since pneuma can mean either spirit or wind (3:8). Its origin and its movements are mysterious and they cannot be contained by the human religious systems Jesus has already challenged.
Nicodemus’ third and last question in the conversation is rhetorical. “How can this be?” likely disguises a thoroughgoing and lengthy inquiry by the rabbi whose religious categories have now been upended. He is baffled. His commitment to the Torah and obedience, to prayer and sacrifice, his understanding of responsibility and privilege have both been challenged.
Jesus again prefaces his answer with “Truly, truly I say to you” as if to highlight the importance of what he is about to say (3:3, 5, 11). He refers to Nicodemus as a rabbi (3:10) just as Nicodemus had referred to Jesus (3:2), but now we see that this teacher does not know the answers. Jesus is the only “true rabbi” who can explain the deeper mysteries of God.
The problem is not simply with this teacher—there is a general problem with the religious world of first-century Judaism. The plurals in 3:11 likely refer to Jesus and his followers who are witnesses to the signs of the kingdom. They have all seen this new kingdom and they can bear witness to it.
The problem rests on a refusal by many (plurals, 3:11b, 12) to receive this testimony and believe. The signs and scriptures are accessible here on earth. If these cannot be understood and believed, it is not possible for profound heavenly things to be believed.
Jesus has unique authority to reveal these heavenly truths because he is the only person who has ever actually entered heaven’s realms (3:13). He alone brings a capacity for disclosure that exceeds both human imagination and wisdom. But just as Jesus descended with this knowledge—making him the unparalleled rabbi—so too he must return (3:14).
Jesus refers to a story from Numbers 21 in which Moses built a serpent of bronze and elevated it among the Israelites so that whoever gazed on it would be healed from the snakes that bit them in the wilderness. In the same manner, Jesus says, he must be “lifted up” (as Moses’ staff was lifted) in order to become the source of eternal life for all who believe.
The Greek hypsoô (lift up) is an important Johannine verb to describe Jesus’ “ascent” or “lifting up” to the cross (3:14; 8:28; 12:32, 34) but curiously, it is never used like this in the synoptics. Luke uses it in Acts for Jesus’ ascension/exaltation (2:33; 5:31). Therefore John has in mind that the cross will not simply be a place of sacrifice and suffering, but a place of departure, of return, when Jesus resumes his life with the Father (17:1–19). Jesus ascends to the cross. It will actually be a place of glorification.
Read I Corinthians 6:19–20 and then give thanks for God putting His Holy Spirit in you. What a gift from God!
11–30–2020 John 3.16–21 Bible Study # 11
Do not give up on the complete outline of John’s Gospel. I just have not had the time to get that working properly. If I do not get it done this week, then I would hope to get it done next week. As you all know, this is a busy time of the year.
Today our reading begin with the Bible verse considered the best known by many. I don’t have the tools to check the accuracy of that claim, but I do remember seeing for many years a man who attended football games wearing a multicolored wig and whenever the camera was on him, he held up a sign with John 3:16 written on it. I will admit I didn’t believe it was a strong witness for the Lord, but I changed my mind.
Several Bible Study sites reported that whenever he was on camera holding up his sign, they had a significant increase in the number of people who searched for the passage and wanted to see what it said. Anything that gets a number of sports fans to do a Bible Search, seems like a good thing to me. God can use any and all who will witness for him.
Why is this such a good verse? It starts on a positive note which our world doesn’t believe. It seems that the majority of unbelievers have the idea that God is more anxious to send people to hell than to win people for eternal life. They believe the church is composed of people who believe they are better than most and are very judgmental of people who are not life them.
Not only does God love, but he loves the world. His story begins with inclusion, not exclusion. His love made him also a giving God. He did not share just his spare change. He gave his one and only son (not an extra son or unneeded son). The purpose of this gift was so that whoever (or anyone) would not perish but have eternal life.
Even the word “perish” is not negative in this context because it says God wants to prevent people from perishing. God is interested in being a life giver. In John 1:1–5 he was the life giver in creation. Now in John 3:16 he is the life restorer.
Then in v. 17 God the Father makes it clear he did not send his Son to condemn the world, but so that he could save the world. The world has forgotten that it is under the sentence of death. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, we were once dead in sin ourselves.
In v. 18 the real issue is defined for us. When we do not recognize that we are dead because of sin, we are trapped in death. I always used a simple illustration when I was teaching the youth confirmation class. I told them that if I collapsed in front of them and was not breathing, they should not gather around me and begin to clap and cheer, “Come on pastor, breath.”
Why is that worthless? Because dead people cannot do anything on their own. Someone needs to help them. You need to call 911 so professional help can get there as quickly as possible. Then if there is an Automated External Defibrillator available, open it up and follow the instructions carefully. If not, hopefully someone has had the training on doing chest compressions to keep blood moving to the brain to prevent brain damage.
No matter who the person is that is lying on the floor or wherever, they cannot do anything to save themselves.
I think that is a wonderful picture of a spiritually dead person also. We are rescued by God who was the original life giver and now is the life restorer. As the Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (NASB95)
Why is this true? Because Jesus is the light of the world and instead of coming to the light they remained in darkness. We all practiced sin when we as children and parent or teacher asks us, “Who started the fight?” Most of the time they point at each other. Sin likes to remain hidden. The ultimate degradation is when we find people going on talk shows to brag about their adultery or sinful lifestyles. Police today often find pictures or references on social media where people seem to be glad to reveal their sin, even posting picture of themselves with stolen items.
That is why it is important to confess our sin rather than deny it. To confess is to admit we want the light of God in us and we are willing step into the light and not hide in the darkness of sin. I would recommend John3:16–21 as a wonderful tool to share the gospel message. Our lesson is short today, but extremely important. I encourage you to read the comments at least twice and then pray through the message God has in these words.
12–01–2020 John 3.22–36 Bible Study # 12
John the Baptist is the original and powerful witness to Jesus as the Christ. This is clear from his introduction in the prologue, where we are told that John was sent by God “as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (1:7).
He is the first to point to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29) and to declare him to be the Son of God, on whom the Spirit descended, who baptizes by the Spirit (1:32–33). He also directs two of his own disciples to follow Jesus, and one of these, Andrew, brings his brother Simon Peter to follow Jesus (1:35–42).
Even though John came before Jesus, he places Jesus before himself in rank and honor (1:30) and declares that his sole purpose in baptizing is to bear witness to Jesus, “that he might be revealed to Israel” (1:31). John claims nothing for himself, and explicitly denies that he is the prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah (1:19–25), so that he might direct all of Israel to Jesus Christ.
Just as Nicodemus must be born “from above” (3:3), so now John the Baptist becomes a witness to Jesus as one who is “from above” (3:31). Jesus has descended from heaven (3:12–13) bringing heavenly gifts of Spirit and rebirth—he is a messenger who reveals what he has seen and heard (3:31–32). Just as Nicodemus represents Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, so now, John the Baptist is a Jewish prophet. Both men are from “the earth” while Jesus is “from above.”
Acts 19:1–7 mentions followers of John the Baptist living in Ephesus who did not believe in Jesus. Later post-apostolic evidence even suggests that such communities continued to exist a few generations later. They were communities which elevated John the Baptist and rejected Jesus’ messiahship.
John the Baptist becomes a premier witness to Jesus dispelling rumors of a rivalry with Jesus and urging his followers to believe in him. The Baptist devalues his own status—as the friend (3:29) compared with the bridegroom—and says explicitly that “he must become greater; I must become less” (3:30).
After his discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus and his followers went into the area east of Jerusalem where he had a ministry similar to John the Baptist (3:22). This is the only scripture that seems to possibly suggest that Jesus ever baptized anyone. In John 4:2, it specifically states that Jesus himself did not baptize.
Even today some get confused about the difference between the Baptism of John and Christina Baptism. John’s Baptism was baptism of repentance. It was not yet a Christian baptism because as John 7:37–39 says, the Spirit (a feature of Christian baptism) was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Jesus made it clear that his glorification comes when he is lifted up on the cross.)
The Baptist was then working at Aenon near Salim (3:23)—a transliterated Semitic phrase meaning “the springs” (aenon) which were near a place named for “peace” (Hebrew shalom, Arabic salam). The location of this is disputed.
The editorial note of 3:24 is intriguing since it presupposes the synoptic story. John’s arrest is only recorded in the synoptics (Matt. 14:1–12; Mark 1:14; 6:14–29; Luke 3:19–20) and from that account we get the impression that once John is taken captive, Jesus begins his aggressive ministry in Galilee.
The Fourth Gospel makes it plain that Jesus and the Baptist worked simultaneously for an unknown length of time before Jesus moved north. This does not mean that John and the synoptics are at odds. The first three gospels imply that Jesus moves to Galilee because in some fashion he might be in jeopardy in light of John the Baptist’s arrest (Matt. 4:12, Jesus “withdraws”).
The argument recorded in 3:25–26 spurs the Baptist’s subsequent speech (3:27–30). John 3:26 suggests that the conflict was over baptism. Baptism was commonplace for converted Gentiles just entering Judaism since it represented a spiritual threshold the convert was crossing.
Ceremonial washings were common among Jews who cleansed themselves for service or prayer. But baptism for Jews didn’t make sense. Was this ceremonial cleansing? Was it a threshold? Certainly these questions stand behind the interrogation of John reported at the beginning of all four gospels.
But the most important issue here is that Jesus’ baptism enters the debate (3:26). If the argument is about ceremonial effectiveness and legitimacy, the critique from Judaism is less important than the threat posed by Jesus’ newfound popularity.
The Baptist had followers who knew about the events surrounding Jesus’ baptism, who knew John’s testimony concerning him, and likely knew Jesus by name. But curiously, they don’t refer to Jesus personally (“the man who was with you …”) and they harbor considerable envy for Jesus’ fame (“everyone is going to him”). They seem disgruntled, unhappy that Jesus is becoming a celebrated leader.
The Baptist’s response (27–30) soothes the rivalry. God has provided the successes and increases enjoyed by Jesus. It is not that John is now receiving a lesser role (though this is true), but that Jesus is “receiving” more followers (see 3:26) and hence he has “received” these from heaven. Such growth should not be criticized.
Above all, John affirms as he did in chapter one that he is not the Christ (28), but his forerunner. Drawing on wedding imagery, John compares himself with a “friend of the bridegroom.” The groom alone has the bride—and the friend rejoices. John 3:28f serves to emphasize what is stated forcefully in 3:29, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Jesus’ divine origins are the reason for his supremacy (31). Human teaching cannot be compared with divine revelation where the courier brings a message from God. But even when the heavenly message is delivered (32), still, the world is a place of darkness and it will not receive the testimony of what this courier, this Son, has witnessed (cf. 3:11).
Truth, then, is something that descends, not something that is discovered through human labor. It comes from outside and thus runs the risk of rejection.
They have acknowledged Jesus, accepted him and his witness, and made a theological deduction about God. To affirm the Sonship of Jesus drives one immediately to affirmations about God, and revelation and truth. John’s imagery is graphic.
In antiquity wax seals were used to give authentication and ownership to letters and possessions. Even illiterate people could recognize the official seals of important persons. Hence, to embrace Jesus is to set a seal, to confirm and defend an entire constellation of beliefs central to Christian faith and God.
The key here is the essence of Jesus and his authority (34–36). God’s love for the Son is so complete that nothing is beyond the Son’s reach; anything belonging to God has been placed in the Son’s hands. Above all, the Father has provided the Son with the Holy Spirit (34).
In 3:36b John approaches salvation from the opposing viewpoint. Those who reject the Son will not see life—God’s wrath rests on them. The world of darkness and unbelief stands under the judgment of God (Rom. 1:18ff) and those who refuse the light, who reject Jesus, remain in the darkness and so, continue to live under divine judgment.
12–03–2020 John 4.16–26 Bible Study # 13
The woman is seeking water—but she understands neither the gift, nor the identity of the giver. The second
round of questions (4:16–26) now pursue this second theme, Jesus’ identity. No doubt Jesus’ request that she
summon her husband was a shock (4:16).
Her response that she has no husband (17) would have been true whether she was divo rced or a widow. But
Jesus, unveiling his divine capacity (cf. Nathanael, 1:49), reminds her that she has had five—and her current
lover is either a sixth husband or a man to whom she is not married.
However Jesus is not simply judging her. She rightly sees that this uncovers his abilities as a messenger from
God and recoils, looking for a way to deflect the moral probings of this stranger.
Since the Samaritans embraced only the Pentateuch, they did not put faith in Biblical prophets like Amos and
Isaiah. But they understood the expectation of Deut. 18:18 which said a great prophet would follow Moses (“I
will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the
prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.”).
This was to be the messianic figure of the final day. Therefore in referring to Jesus as a prophet (the prophet?)
the woman unwittingly has opened the subject of the messiah for Jesus. This is a common Johannine technique
in which characters operating on an earthly plane not only fail to understand spiritual things, but occasionally
use language that bears a meaning that is more profound than they realize. Caiaphas does this in 11:50. Pilate
does it also in 18:37, 39 and 19:19–22.
In 4:20 to free herself from the shame of her past (and present) in the eyes of this prophet, to deflect any more
of his questions, the woman brings up the historic religious division between Jews and Samaritans. Both groups
understood that God had commanded a place be set aside for worship, where His name might be known (Deut.
12:5) but serious disagreements surrounded this location.
King David decided to select Jerusalem and after he acquired land, he placed the tabernacle there. His son,
Solomon used it as the site for God’s temple. Even after its destruction in the exile, the site was continuously
rebuilt. The Samaritans rejected this tradition (when they rejected the later OT books).
In the Pentateuch the first place where Abraham built an altar was at Shechem beneath Mt. Gerizim. Mt.
Gerizim was also the destination of the Israelites when they entered Canaan under Joshua’s command (Deut.
11:29; 27:12; Josh. 8:33) so that the law and its blessings could be read aloud.
Given their historical commitments, it made sense that this mountain was deemed to be the place chosen by
God. Even following the destruction of the Samaritan temple (in the 2nd century B.C.), priests continued to
sacrifice and worship there. The ancient temple’s history was remembered fondly.
Jesus is being asked to entangle himself in this historical-religious question. The woman’s reference to “our
fathers” does not point to recent history, but to antiquity when Abraham (Gen. 12:7) and Jacob (Gen. 33:20)
revered this area. This mountain, the woman avers, has historic religious importance validated not merely by
her people, but by the patriarchs.
On the other hand, “you” in 4:20b is emphatic referring not to Jesus, but to the nation he represents. “Your
people worship in Jerusalem—and our people worship here—therefore we have little in common,” might
paraphrase nicely the woman’s intention. But once again Jesus deflects her appeal to racial division (as in 4:9)
and supplies a sharp commentary on worship (4:21–24).
First, Jesus expresses clearly the inadequacy of Samaritan worship (4:22). Unlike anywhere else in the NT,
Jesus aligns himself with the religious traditions of Judaism, “We (plural, emphatic) worship what we know—
for salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus was a Jew. The Messiah was to be a Jew. Therefore Judaism is the
trajectory of religious history through which God has been at work.
This is an uncompromising remark about the deficiencies of Samaritan beliefs. “You (plural, emphatic) worship
what you don’t know” is directed to her tradition and world. Jesus points out that the rivalry between Gerizim
and Jerusalem is of slight importance anyway since both places will soon be obsolete (4:21).
In 2:19–22 we already heard a hint of this when Jesus mentioned destroying “this temple” and immediately
explained that he referred to the “temple of his body.” Thus Jesus’ body (the locale of God’s presence, 1:14)
and the temple share similar fates—or at least, interpret one another. The theological term “hour/time” (Gk:
hôra), used initially in 2:4, refers to “the hour” of Jesus’ glorification (in John, his death and resurrection).
Hence a cataclysmic change will occur in worship when Jesus comes to the cross offering himself as sacrifice.
Finally, Jesus describes what the future will bring. Worship in “spirit and truth” (23) is the key phrase for Jesus’
meaning and it is no doubt tied to Jesus’ affirmation that “God is spirit” (24).
This is not merely a commonplace metaphysical explanation about the incorporeality of God as we might refer
to humans as characterized by locality and “flesh.” He is describing the dynamic and life-giving character of
God. One preposition governs ‘spirit and truth’ in 4:23 and 24. We do not have a catalogue of two features here,
but one inseparable concept.
This is worship that is empowered by God but also informed by the revelation of God provided to humans by
the One who is the truth, Jesus Christ (14:6). Later Jesus will refer to this Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth” (14:17;
15:26). This is worship not tied to holy places, but worship that is impacted by a Holy Person who through his
cross will inaugurate the era in which the Holy Spirit will change everything.
The woman’s last words to Jesus (4:26) again attempt to sidestep his clarification. The Samaritans did believe in
the coming of the Messiah based on Deuteronomy 18:18 (“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from
among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything
that I command”) and understood that this person would explain everything to them.
But the woman implies that both she and Jesus will have to wait. Such spiritual explanations are still on the
horizon for them. But again, unwittingly, she has used the very words that best describe Jesus. With simple
dignity, in 4:26 Jesus accepts the titles for himself. This completes the second challenge of 4:10. The woman
has rightly identified Jesus (cf. 4:29b).
The Greek phrase of 4:26, “I am—who speaks to you,” holds an occurrence of a term that is unique to the
Fourth Gospel and will recur with some frequency. “I am” (Gk: egô eimi) may be a mere self-identification (so
say the NIV, NRSV, etc.) but the pronoun “he” (“I who speak to you am he”) does not exist in the sentence. The
phrase is emphatic and unusual.
As we will see later (8:58) it is not always just a term of self–identification which bears a predicate (e.g., “I am
the bread of life,” 6:48). It is also the divine name of God uttered on Mt. Sinai to Moses. Throughout John we
shall see Jesus’ absolute use of it without a predicate to disclose more of his divine identity (see Exod. 3:14).
12–06–2020 John 4:27–45 Bible Study # 15
Jesus’ disciples who had gone to get food (4:8) now return and exhibit normal amazement that he is talking with a woman, much less a Samaritan (27). They are likely thinking about the prohibitions lived in tradition and written in law that forbid a man to talk casually with a woman. But they may also have been intrigued that Jesus would engage a woman theologically.
The rabbis taught that theological education, instruction in the Law, was for men alone. To teach women or girls not only was a waste of time, but a profaning of sacred things. Jesus disregards such custom and here is talking to a singularly irreligious woman about matters of utmost spiritual profundity.
Ideas abound explaining the woman’s disregard of her jar (4:28) when she goes to report to her neighbors. Most likely her zeal to share her discovery made her leave behind anything that would hinder. One sign of discipleship is the testimony given to others—words that eagerly spill out because of the preciousness of discovery.
“Come and see!” is a Johannine phrase of invitation (1:39, 46). Potential converts do not need mere information about Jesus—the woman is even tentative about Jesus’ identity as the Christ (29)—they need to come and have their own experience with him.
With the woman gone, the disciples encourage Jesus to eat. Suddenly we find ourselves in a mini-discourse bearing all the typical features. Jesus’ claim to possess food (4:32) baffles them since their assignment was to acquire food. Could someone (the woman?) have given him food (34)?
But they are thinking of earthly things and again, their misunderstanding enables him to press their thinking to another level. Obeying the Father is Jesus’ more deeply satisfying task. The Father has given the Son work to do (5:30; 6:38; 7:18; 8:50; 9:4; 10:37f; 12:49f; etc.) and his mission is to see it to completion. When Jesus says, “It is finished” on the cross, it is not merely his life expiring, but a gratifying expression of the climax of his life of obedience.
In 4:35 we are likely hearing a village proverb shared orally (of which the Middle East seems to have no end of supply). Jesus is thinking about the span of time between planting and harvest when the grain is grown but not mature; when the fields are full, but not ready for cutting. The farmer relaxes and enjoys the promise of plenty.
But Jesus abruptly changes the image to spur the disciples to obedience. The fields are now ready for gathering! He has planted the seed (at the well) and now the harvest (of Samaritans) is coming in. Jesus is in the world, God has invaded the field with seed and it is bearing fruit already.
Jesus uses another agricultural metaphor in 4:37–38 to make his expectations for his disciples clear. In farming (as in so many other labors) significant labor precedes harvest. And sometimes those who do the preparatory work are not the same as those who harvest.
But what does Jesus mean by “others” who have done the hard work? This is possibly John the Baptist—or Jesus himself—who has prepared the way for the coming church. Either way it is an important theological statement since it defines Christian mission in terms of what has gone on before, what God has been doing in advance of our efforts.
Christians are called to go where God has already “done the hard work” and in this place reap the harvest.
In 4:39 the Samaritans return, and the harvest is at hand. Their faith (they “believed in him”) is based on the woman’s testimony which underscores the value of human witness to the work of God (17:20).
Jesus and his followers agree to remain two days (40) which confirms the Samaritans’ conviction Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Their stay brought even more successes since many more came to faith in these days. It is likely this groundwork that contributed to the Samaritans’ eager response to the later efforts of Philip in Acts 8 when he comes to Samaria following Stephen’s martyrdom.
The episode closes with evidence that the Samaritans have become true believers (4:42): they have come and seen and experienced Christ for themselves. This personal experiential feature was a constant concern for John. Potential converts must not only have their beliefs in order—they must also be able to testify to a personal experience (“He told me everything I ever did!” 39b).
But there is one more intriguing aspect of the Samaritans’ testimony. They refer to Jesus as “the savior of the world.” This is an unusual phrase which parallels 3:17 in thought, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” The “world” points to the far horizon of paganism and disbelief beyond Jewish and Samaritan cultural frontiers. This is a first glimpse of the universal mission of Jesus, to reach those outside the boundaries of Judaism.
You and I cannot say we know someone just because we can recognize them walking down the street. None of us ever know someone fully, but we know something of what they think, feel, like, dislike or seek. Members of crime units sometimes join the groups they think need watching. Knowing them, helps them capture them. John is working to help us know that Jesus is both man and God. His emphasis on a personal relationship is valid.
We are called to testify to Jesus and what he has done for us. Too often I hear Christians say, “I don’t have a powerful testimony to share. I’ve known Jesus all my life.” Let me tell you, being able to say God has produced a joy in your life by enlarging your capacity to love and care for others. The testimony of purposeful life and joy filled life is a powerful testimony. That was the testimony of Jesus. You don’t need something more powerful than his story becoming your story.
What saddens me the most is that God’s calling for us to seek the lost seems to be one of the most neglected part of many Christians life. One of the ways to check up on yourself is to ask yourself, “When was the last time I said to someone, ‘Let me tell you what God has done for me … ”
This powerful chapter closes with another miracle by Jesus, one which teaches us about faith. Jesus departs after his two-day stay in Samaria (4:40, 43) and keeps moving north, across the Jezreel Valley, and into the region of Galilee. This small story brings us full circle from where Jesus began his public ministry, namely, in Cana.
It provides a closing “frame” to the section of the gospel that outlines Jesus and four institutions of Judaism (purification, temple, rabbi, a well). The original edition of the Fourth Gospel did not have chapter divisions and so literary markers invite us to note the progress of the story.
This certainly is not the second sign Jesus ever did, since according to 2:23 Jesus did other signs. But it is now the second sign Jesus is working in Galilee, matching the first one at the Cana wedding.
When Jesus reminds us that prophets have no honor in their own country he was first referring to Nazareth, a town where he grew up. But the eternal Son of God also had a right to consider Jerusalem and the temple another hometown for him. Here he again was rejected by the leaders. The unclean people, Samaritans, accepted Jesus.
The people of Galilee welcomed Jesus because they saw someone who challenged the elite of Jerusalem who always looked down on the country bumpkins of Galilee. Welcoming someone is not necessarily believing.
In Samaria Jesus has just enjoyed an overwhelming success. At best, his audiences in Jerusalem were cautious; in 2:18, 20 the Jews challenged him there. The Galileans in the present story welcome him not because he might be the Messiah (compare the Samaritans, 4:29, 41) but because they witnessed his activity in Jerusalem (4:45b) which likely refers to his cleansing of the temple.
Their interest in Jesus, therefore, refers to his role in opposition to the temple authorities. Even Jesus’ rebuke in 4:48 is in the plural, showing that he is speaking of everyone in Galilee (“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe). As a Jew, Jesus is commenting on his home culture, Judaism, which cannot provide one of its own prophets with honor.
At Cana Jesus is at once approached by an important man (“a royal official”) who likely worked for Herod Antipas in Galilee. The man persistently asks Jesus to come down to Capernaum to heal his desperately ill son (47, 49). Since Cana is in the hills of Galilee and Capernaum is by the sea, “coming down” is a note of accuracy embedded in the story. The two villages were a considerable distance apart (about 20 miles), separated by hills.
Jesus heals the boy at a distance instead of traveling to Capernaum (50) and later as the man returns home, his servants meet him with news of the healing (52) which occurred precisely when Jesus uttered his words of healing (53).
The official and his family believe in Jesus (53), but the key sentence in the story is found in 4:48. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The attitude of the Galileans is the issue here. As we mentioned at 2:11, the word “sign” describes a revelatory unveiling of God that may be worked through a miracle.
When John ties sign with “wonder” he is describing a different phenomenon. The Galileans want Jesus to prove himself with an act of power. The same attitude surfaces in Galilee in 6:30 after Jesus feeds the 5,000. And in this case, the Galileans miss the revelatory sign Jesus has given—and press him to do something spectacular that they can believe. Jesus’ point is sharp: they simply want miracles—but they do not want to see what God is really doing among the people (6:26).
Doesn’t that sound a lot like our world today which says, “Seeing is believing.” And like the people of Galilee it means seeing what they expected. Our expectations often deceive us.
12–05–2020 John 5.1–18 Bible Study # 16
Most scholars would agree that chapter five begins a new section of the gospel, distinct from chapters 1–4. In this new section, John no longer compares Jesus with institutions of Jewish piety and history (chapters 2–4) but instead compares him with some of the major festivals of Judaism.
These new chapters refer specifically to festivals such as Passover and Tabernacles; Jesus makes an appearance in their festivities, and then he exploits some imagery which lends deeper understanding of who he is.
In first century Judaism, these festivals were of supreme importance (see Lev. 23).
The cycle of festivals was very old (Purim and Hanukkah were the newest, but centuries old in Jesus’ day) and the liturgies of the temple and the responsibilities of Jewish families well-established. Three times each year Jewish families were expected to travel to Jerusalem for worship (Passover in spring, Pentecost seven weeks later, Tabernacles in autumn).
The thanked God for the harvest of crops and herds while remembering great episodes from Israel’s history. We do not have accurate records that demonstrate how faithful they were in complying with God’s plan. The Sabbath, celebrated on a weekly basis in home and synagogue in Israel’s villages, set the tone for what it meant to have a period of time set aside for reverence and devotion for any festival.
The first day of Passover (according to Lev. 23:7) was to be “a holy convocation” in which no work could be done. The onset of festivals mimicked the observance of Sabbath. This means that Sabbath set the pace, outlining the pattern of Jewish devotion for what was to follow.
Chapter five centers around the Sabbath festival according to 5:9 (not Passover or Pentecost or Tabernacles)—and the argument it sparks deals with Rabbinic expectations for behavior and piety on the Sabbath. John (and Jesus) has a demonstrate a “Sabbath understanding” of the festivals. We will see this surface repeatedly in the festival cycle.
Festivals were made by God to bring good gifts to his people, not to legislate and control behavior. This outlook will unfold particularly in chapter 5 and like so many synoptic conflict stories, Jesus’ understanding of the Sabbath will get him into considerable trouble.
In this chapter we also find the first mention of one of the gospel’s chief themes. Scholars have frequently observed that John’s gospel places Jesus on trial not simply at the end of his life (as in the synoptics), but continually. Judicial situations occur frequently in the gospel. Jesus is examined by Nicodemus, the woman, and the Jewish leaders of John 5, 6, 8, and 9.
Jesus is forced to produce witnesses for his case (John the Baptist, God, followers, healed men in John 5 and 9), and he produces evidence which may substantiate his claims (particularly his works, “the very works that I am doing testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me,” 5:36, also 10:25, 37–38; 14:11; 15:24).
Above all, in the final scenes of the gospel, Jesus appears before Pilate and the High Priest, in a climactic judicial sequence in which he is found innocent (18:38) but nevertheless is killed.
This chapter is best understood with a judicial background in mind. It is not simply about a Sabbath day when Jesus heals a man and then is accused of breaking the law. Mark 3:1–6 provides that sort of story. This chapter is a template of accusation and response, of prosecution and defense. It shows us the kind of accusation and rejection Jesus experienced, his defense, and the genuine spiritual jeopardy his opponents are in.
The action begins when Jesus enters Jerusalem during a feast (which is Sabbath, 5:9) and comes to a gate in the city’s northeast wall called the Sheep Gate. It is interesting that this northeast section of the walled city has continued to sponsor a sheep market one day per week just outside St. Stephen’s Gate.
John tells us that many people believed the pool referred to here was a healing sanctuary (5:3). Such places were not uncommon in antiquity and once a site was identified as a sanctuary of healing, the tradition was impossible to stop.
Excavations at the site show that after the NT era, the pools continued to be used as an Asclepion (a healing sanctuary named after the Greek god of healing, Asclepius) which confirms the tradition. One explanation for the crowd at the pool has slipped into the text (5:3b–4) and most of the manuscripts of John leave it out.
However it is likely there to explain the “stirring of the waters” in 5:7. The people understood that occasionally an angel would descend and stir the water of the pool—and the first one to touch the water would be healed. The man Jesus meets had been ill for thirty-eight years and later 5:8–9 clarifies that he was paraplegic, having lost the ability to use his legs.
This area was likely a regular place for him to spend the day. Here he could beg from people coming to the pool and take his chances at being healed. Jesus initiates the conversation with the man (as he generally does in the gospel) with words which probably refer to much more than the present miracle, “Do you want to get well” (5:6)?
These same words could have been used metaphorically for Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. The man, of course, does not recognize Jesus and cannot understand his healing powers. The man then appeals to his dilemma: as a paraplegic, he cannot outrace the others getting into the pool for healing (5:7).
But Jesus ignores both the superstition surrounding the pool and the man’s complaint. The Greek tenses of Jesus’ commands in 5:8 unveil his interest: pick up your bed (aorist imperative, a single event)—get yourself up and start walking (present imperatives, continuous events). The healing was immediate. The man makes no testimony of who Jesus is; he provides no orthodox confession: he simply obeys and is healed.
The key to the story is found in 5:9b. It was the Sabbath when Jesus healed the man. Jerusalem had always been a place of religious zeal (as it is today) and now a self-appointed enforcer of Sabbath law upbraids the man (5:10). The Jews protected the Sabbath and held it aloft as a vital symbol of Jewish culture and religion.
The oral laws of Judaism at this time (the Mishnah) outlined thirty-nine categories of things that were forbidden on Sabbath and carrying something such as a bed from one place to another was prohibited (Mishnah, Shabbath, 7:2). The man does not know Jesus. He simply points to his own healing and no doubt with joy that matched his inquisitors’ zeal, he says that a man with the authority to heal told him to do this.
The man’s life has been transformed! The joy of new life obliterates the legalism he now must debate. It is only later when Jesus meets him in the temple (5:14–15) that the man identifies Jesus to the authorities.
This is the first time the hostility of Jesus’ opponents is revealed openly in this gospel.
Their question shifts rapidly from the error of the healed man to the identity of the healer who incited this breach of law: “Who is this person” (5:12)? Jesus had slipped away (13b) as was his pattern following miracles (cf. 6:15). The next verses, 5:16–18, will summarize their complaint against Jesus.
Jesus encounters the former cripple in the temple. We can surmise that the man had gone there to offer praise to God for his healing (cf. Luke 17:14) or perhaps to confirm his healing with priests. When Jesus sees him he says two things: “See you have become well” is no doubt a recognition that his cure was not short-lived, as many supposed cures were.
But then Jesus remarks, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” Is Jesus making some link between sin and physical ills? Interpreters have struggled with the meaning of this verse. No doubt Jesus’ exhortation must be connected to his warning here. The man’s sin and his condition were linked.
Scripture indicates that some tragedies may be the result of specific sins (1 Cor. 11:30) and this may be why Jesus chose the man for healing. There were two levels at which God needed to work in him (cf. Mark 2:1–12). But those with an infirmity have not necessarily sinned—and those who sin, do not necessarily endure suffering as a consequence. Luke 13:1–5 and John 9:3 provide Jesus’ correction of that sort of thinking.
Suffering is not an index of a person’s sin. But having said that, still, specific suffering may come from specific sins. The most natural reading of the verse suggests that Jesus is pointing the man to repentance because in all situations, sin is the cause of death, illness, crop failures and all destructive experiences of life.
In these critical verses John tells us about Jesus’ opponents and assesses the reason for their fury. And verse 18 anticipates the conclusion of the story with a shocking disclosure: his opponents want to kill Jesus (cf. 7:1). The Jewish leadership has located two crimes which are major offenses deserving the death penalty.
If we keep John’s fascinating “trial motif” in mind, these verses contain the “legal complaint” that the Jewish authorities held against Jesus. First, Jesus was viewed as indifferent to divine Sabbath law as mediated through Jewish tradition. The Greek language of 5:16 implies that Jesus would habitually do things like this on the Sabbath.
This healing is not an isolated instance. The synoptic picture parallels this, reporting Sabbath violations which brought significant conflict. And observers to such violations were obligated to punish the offender (Num. 15:32–36). John employs a technical term for “persecute” (Gk: diôkô) in 5:16. This is a term used in Greek literature for a legal prosecution.
John is telling us that Jesus’ prosecution—his trial—is already underway. Jesus is also accused of blasphemy. His defense of his Sabbath activity is given in 5:17, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” The offense of this is anchored to the nature of his self-defense in light of Sabbath charges.
The Rabbis enforced the prohibition against work on Sabbath but agreed that in some fashion, God himself continued working. For instance, God sustained the universe every day. Moreover, God continued to exert his prerogative over life and death since people died and children were born on Sabbath.
Jesus’ claim fits precisely here: Jesus is the Son of God and as such, if God who made the Sabbath can continue to work positively while commanding rest, and if Jesus’ works are the works of God, then Jesus’ works on the Sabbath are defensible. Jesus is assuming divine prerogatives. Later in 5:19 Jesus spells out this Rabbinic line of thinking in full.
Could this bold defense be proven? If it is true, a breathtaking claim is being set before Judaism. If it is false, a serious crime has been committed. Jesus is claiming equality with God (5:18), a claim that will reappear throughout the course of the gospel. As God’s divine agent, Jesus has the right and the ability to do what God does.
John interprets the persecution and eventual death of Jesus as leading from Jesus’ divine claims about himself. And in the present instance, the cultural and religious interests of the Sabbath have provided a platform for these claims to be set out boldly.
12–08–2020 John 5.30–47 Bible Study #18
John 5:31 is a key point in Jesus’ trial. In OT law, more than one witness was needed in order to condemn someone (Deut. 17:6). This idea was expanded in judicial settings to say that more than one person was needed to confirm someone’s testimony (Mishnah, Ketuboth 2:9). In 5:31 Jesus is not saying that any self-testimony he gives is false; but rather that its validity is inadmissible unless it is confirmed by other witnesses.
Jesus now names five witnesses whose words and actions confirm his claims. Jesus’ first witness is God even though 5:32 does not say so explicitly. This is repeated in 5:37. The thought is not necessarily that God provides an audible voice of testimony, unless John has in mind the baptism of Jesus (1:32–34; cf. 12:28).
Rather here Jesus may be pointing to the inward presence of God which gives him confidence about his mission (17:1–6). God’s word and power are within Jesus, he has been sent by the Father, and these data point to the truth of who he is.
Second, Jesus refers to John the Baptist (33–35). Of course John preceded Jesus, identified him, worked with him, and directed his followers to become Jesus’ disciples. Third, Jesus points to his own works (36) which demand some explanation. These are not simply powerful miracles, but signs, culminating in the great works of the cross and resurrection. They point not merely to Jesus’ identity, but to the Father who alone could enable such things.
The scriptures are named as the fourth witness (39–40). First-century Judaism was zealous in its study of the scriptures. And yet, Jesus says, they did not see the central message about Jesus and how he fulfills their words. Luke shows a fascinating story about such use of the scriptures in Luke 24 when Jesus comes to Emmaus. There he opens “Moses and the prophets” to these two disciples.
The fifth witness is Moses (46–47) who of course is represented in scripture, but his words about the Messiah were unequivocal (Deut. 18:15). Moses was the “patron saint” of Judaism, the defender of its people, an advocate on their behalf before God (see Moses’ farewell, Deut. 33). But, Jesus remarks, even Moses’ words have gone ignored.
Jesus ends his defense by accusing his opponents. He prosecutes them during his own trial! This was not unusual in Jewish courts. Unlike today, defendants did not simply prove their innocence and thus end the trial.
Jewish trials worked to uncover the truth. And accusers who made false claims in court could find themselves placed in the defense and subject to serious jeopardy. Punishments they had hoped to inflict on their opponent now could turn back on them.
Jesus is aware of this. As his “trial” unfolds in this chapter, he turns the tables and moves from defense to prosecution. The final impact of Jesus’ defense in 5:31–40 leaves the impression that Jesus’ hearers bear some responsibility for what God has done.
If they cannot see the Father’s work in their midst, if they cannot understand a sign when they see it, if they repudiated John the Baptist and read the Bible with closed hearts, something must be profoundly wrong. The irony runs deeper still since these people do indeed measure the validity of human witnesses (43) and seek eagerly the affirmation and recognition that comes from human quarters.
If the problem was intellectual, an explanation would do. But the problem lies deeper. Jesus’ opponents are spiritually ill. Their disbelief is deliberate and the diagnosis is severe: they do not have the love of God in their hearts (42). They love the religious life, but they have forgotten how to love God. What an inditement! It sounds a lot like modern Biblical Scholars who love to study the Bible, but don’t believe God is speaking to them in it.
Jesus’ final reference to Moses in 5:45–47 speaks not only to Moses’ role as a witness, but also to his role as judge. Judaism took great pride in Moses and his work setting the Jewish faith on its present course. Identity with Moses was important (this will unfold particularly in chapters 8–10). It was a religious badge of security.
However if Moses is possessed and not obeyed, if Judaism is exploited as a mark of identity, instead of a path to God, the very tenets of the Bible, the very words of Moses will come back to haunt and to judge. To possess the Bible, to know the scriptures but to not know God is to be in the most precarious place of all.
12–09–2020 John 6.1–21 Bible Study # 19
The sequence of festivals introduced in John 5 continues in this chapter. Jesus has now returned to Galilee from Jerusalem in the springtime and so we learn that the season of Passover is approaching. This is John’s second reference to Passover (2:13, 23) and shows us that Jesus observed the requirement of Judaism to recognize and celebrate these feasts.
The setting of the story is the Sea of Galilee. In later years when many foreign readers are not from Israel, John refers to it as the Sea of Tiberius. The sea lies in a vast inland basin 650 feet below sea level and is 13 miles long and 6 miles wide (from its widest point, near Magdala). It is fed by the Jordan River system that begins in the far north at Mt. Hermon.
The sea is surrounded by hills and mountains reaching an elevation of 2,000 ft. in the west and over 4,000 ft. in the east. At its northwest corner is a fertile plain called the Gennesaret (which also gives the lake its name occasionally, Luke 5:1).
East-west valleys pull cool Mediterranean air from the west every afternoon and this collides with the heated desert air of the basin, creating strong winds and frequent storms which swirl over the sea at the base of the eastern cliffs. This is the background of the “storm” miracles of Jesus when his followers are caught on the sea in one of these crises (John 6:16–21). This story we will cover tomorrow.
Many fishing villages’ harbors have been found recently as the water level has fallen. Villages such as Capernaum, Bethsaida, Magdala, Chorazin, Tiberias and many others enjoyed a flourishing fishing industry particularly in the northern half of the lake where freshwater springs attract numerous fish (near modern Tabgha, an Arabic form of the Greek Heptapegon which means “seven springs”).
This explains Jesus’ ministry in these villages, his frequent use of fishing as an illustration, and his recruitment of fishermen as followers. But we also have to keep in mind that this is a very poor society as well. Galilee was a “peasant agrarian society” where farmers were taxed heavily and frequently lost their land to wealthier elite who ruled either through the Herodian dynasty or who collected tax revenue for Rome.
Jesus was in the western hills teaching his disciples (6:3; “sitting” was common among rabbis, Mark 4:1; 9:35), but the fame he had obtained through his miracles at Cana, Capernaum, and elsewhere drew large crowds from all over to hear him. Jesus’ compassion on them leads him to provide food—miraculous food—for all 5,000 of them.
Among God’s many miracles in deliverance from slavery. The first was how God used the Red Sea to deliver Israel from captivity and slavery. Like Noah’s Ark, water saved those whom God wanted to rescue and destroyed those whom God was destroying. Then for 40 years God provided food to feed those wandering in the wilderness with manna.
These were potent symbols of God’s preservation of his people: rescuing them from harm and sustaining them in the wilderness. In John 6, Jesus appears at Passover repeating many of these themes. The people are a multitude not unlike those in the wilderness; Jesus feeds them with “heavenly” bread; and following the feeding when the disciples are on the sea another miracle occurs: he comes to them walking on water.
Moreover, the question of Jesus in 6:5 (“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”) echoes that of Moses in Num. 11:13, “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people?”
This Passover story of Jesus makes direct connections with prominent OT themes which follow each other in rapid succession. They provide a growing impression that in some fashion, the hero of Passover, Moses, has now been superceded by Jesus who not only provides “heavenly bread,” but who himself is “the bread of life” (6:35).
The feeding miracle became one of the best–known events of Jesus life and was preserved in the memory of the early church as a key event in Jesus’ life. The synoptics record the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:35–44; Matt. 14:13–21; Luke 9:10–17) as well as another feeding of 4,000 (Mark 8:1–9; Matt. 15:32–38). Then John’s account although very similar to Mark 6, provides insights no other gospel possesses.
Jesus not only wants to supply food, but also to challenge Philip’s growing faith (6:5; cf. 1:44; 12:21–22). Philip’s response indicates that he simply doesn’t grasp Jesus’ miraculous ability yet. “200 denarii” represents about seven months’ wages for a common laborer (at one denarius per day) and even this would not be enough.
Only John mentions that the bread is barley. This is a signal of the poverty of this crowd. Barley was considered the bread of the poor and here, the young man has five pieces of it—much like five round loaves of today’s pita bread. Luke 11:5 implies that three such pieces might make a meal for one person.
These details are important and interesting because in 2 Kings 4:42–44 there is yet another OT miracle where Elijah feeds 100 men with 20 barley loaves. Jesus fills twelve baskets with leftovers. (Some scholars wonder if this is John’s first reference to the twelve apostles: one basket for each to collect scraps. Cf. 6:67, 70.)
Old Testament allusions keep appearing, telling us that Jesus is fulfilling and recreating images from Israel’s sacred past. He is a figure who harks back to great historic figures (Moses and Elijah) who knew God’s power intimately.
John reports that Jesus alone distributed the bread and the fish (6:11), although we can assume with Mark that he needed help with such a large and hungry crowd (Mark 6:41). John’s point is to underscore that Jesus is the provider of food, the source of life for these people (as thus far we have seen him be the source of rebirth, living water, and healing).
The people understand Jesus’ miracle as messianic. Jesus has just recreated the miracle of Moses! To identify him as “the prophet who is to come into the world” (6:14) is no doubt a reference to Deut. 18:15–19 which promises that a prophet like Moses would some day return—and this was viewed in Judaism as a messianic promise.
The Jews at the Dead Sea community of Qumran expected a prophet to come in their messianic vision (1QS 9:10–11; 4QTest 5–8). And for many, Moses had become the image of the ideal Messiah, unifying images of king and prophet.
But, Mark concludes the feeding miracle with a fairly cryptic ending, “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him, while he dismissed the crowd.
John 6:15 completes the picture. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” This reflects a crass misunderstanding by the crowd. The crowd wants to force Jesus to define his mission and work politically; to become a king who might rival the Herodians or the Romans.
Jesus wants no part of this kingship. He will not be tempted by “the kingdoms of this world” (Matt. 4:8). This theme appears in the temptation account of Jesus. In Mark 6 the feeding miracle is attached to Herod Antipas’ severe worry about the growing popularity of Jesus.
With 5,000 men gathered in his region, he likely worried about political insurrection. Jesus must flee—and he must push his disciples out to sea—in order to preserve himself and his work from the political ambitions of the crowd.
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