PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

01/03 Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210103_jesus-while-we-wait.mp3

We have been looking this Advent season at what Jesus said about his coming, and about his coming again. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to seek and to save us, those who were lost, gone astray, sick, sinners. He came to fix and restore and heal what is broken. Being fully and eternally God, equal with his Father, he came. He stooped down. He humbled himself. He became human. He became one of us to die for our sins, to bear our shame, and to give us new life. He came to rescue us, to set us free.

And he is coming back. He will return for us, as the groom for his bride, to take us to be with him forever. He went to prepare a place for us. His prayer to his Father for us was that we would be with him.

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

How To Wait

Jesus is coming back for us! We await his return. But how should we wait? What ought we do as we wait?

Last time we saw from Matthew 24 and 25 that we are to be on guard so as not to be led astray (Mt.24:4). We are not to be alarmed, even though the world seems to be falling apart (Mt.24:6). Even if we are persecuted, hated, put to death, we are to persevere, to remain faithful to Jesus, to endure to the end (Mt.24:13). We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere (Mt.24:14). We are to to stay awake, to be ready, to be faithful with what Jesus has entrusted us with and to discharge our task (Mt.24:42, 44-46; 25:10, 21). We are to show our love for the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters, caring practically for their needs (Mt.25:31-40).

This is a tall order. Be on guard, be watchful, stay awake, be ready. Proclaim the good news to everyone everywhere. Be faithful to use the gifts he has given you and do what he has called you to do. Through love serve one another. Be faithful, endure even to death. How? How can I do all that? I don’t think I’m alert enough, smart enough, strong enough, determined enough. I don’t know, if it comes to it, if I would be willing to lay down my life for him. Is this even possible, what he expects of us?

John 14; Jesus is the Way

We started in John 14, where Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us to be with him, and promised that he would come again to take us to be with him forever. Let’s go back to John 14 for help.

At the end of John 13 is where Peter brashly says that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he’s going to fail, he’s going to deny him three times before morning.

And then Jesus says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. You’re going to fail, but don’t let that agitate your heart. Instead believe, trust, depend, rely on God, rely also on me. You can’t do this. You don’t have the strength. You must depend on God, lean in to God, allow God to work these things in you.

Jesus desires us to be with him. He goes to prepare a place for us. And he is coming back to take us to himself. And we know the way.

Thomas was confused at this point. Not knowing where Jesus is going, how could he possibly know the way? Jesus responds:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the goal, and Jesus is the way. Our end goal is to be with Jesus, and we get there only through Jesus. We must believe in Jesus, trust him, rely on him, depend on him, let him carry us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Jesus is our life. We live this life by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We live and walk in utter dependence on him. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in me.

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This time it is Philip who doesn’t understand. He wants to see the Father.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus is to be trusted in as well as the Father, because Jesus is inextricably related to his Father. He is one with his Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He shares the same nature, the same essence or being as his Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. At the beginning of his gospel, John said:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus made his Father known. Jesus made his Father knowable. Jesus is the only way to his Father. Through Jesus, we can enter into relationship with God. As Jesus prayed in John 17,

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing God. Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and the Son. We were made for intimacy with God, but ‘our sins made a separation between us and God’ (Is.59:2). Jesus came to take away our sins and reconcile us to God (Rom.5:10).

One day when we see him, ‘we will know him fully, we will see face to face. Now we see dimly. Now we know in part’ (1Cor.13:12). But we do now see, albeit dimly. We do now know, albeit in part. We get a glimpse, a taste now of the eternal reality we are meant to enjoy.

Abide and Bear Fruit

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of branches on a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. Jesus is the vine, we branches. We are meant to bear fruit.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide. Jesus says ‘Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Nothing. No fruit apart from abiding in Jesus. We must abide; remain in Jesus, stay connected to Jesus, draw life and strength and sustenance from Jesus. If we disconnect from Jesus, we wither. Abide in Jesus and Jesus promises to abide in you, and you will bear much fruit. Abide.

Abide in his love. He loves you. If you ever doubt that, just look to the cross, where he demonstrated decisively his love for you. What does it mean to abide in his love? The waterfall of his love is ever overflowing, pouring down, never ceasing. Many people work hard to put up an umbrella, to build themselves a shelter to block the flow of his love. Many step out of the flow and walk away from his love. Abide. Remain under the waterfall of his love, immerse yourself in his love for you.

The Word

How do we abide in his love? He tells us in verse 10.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

We abide by obedience. We do what he says. We keep his commandments. We listen to him. We listen. And our listening is rooted in relationship. We want to hear him. We want to know what he wants because we want to do what pleases him.

This is not earning by obedience. Notice his love comes first. ‘I have loved you.’ Now abide in my love. The love is already there. The love is not produced by the obedience; rather obedience is produced by his love.

Jesus draws the comparison with the Father’s love for his only Son. Jesus didn’t earn the Father’s love; he was already eternally loved. He obeyed his Father because he was loved. Obedience is a by-product of being loved. Because we are loved, we want to do what pleases him, so we listen to his words. This is abiding in loving relationship.

Jesus said back in verse 3:

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We have been washed clean by his word. So we abide in him, and he in us. He says in verse 7:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We abide in him and his words abide in us. We want to know what he says, so we listen. We cling to his words. We rehearse, we re-read, we memorize. We let his words abide in us.

We tend to be unjustly jealous. The grass is always greener. We say that we only have his word written. We wish we had been there to hear him speak audibly, to hear his voice. Rather we should be amazed and grateful that we have his completed word written. So many believers throughout history have only had bits, pieces, sayings. Many lived while it was being given, before it was written. Many had limited access to only parts of it. We have his word quite literally from beginning to end. Those who heard it audibly would have to trust their memory; we can go back to the very words over and over again to check and listen and read and study. We are truly blessed!

Full Joy

Look at verse 11. Do you see the connection between his word and our joy?

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He spoke, he gave us his words to fill up our joy. His commands are not burdensome. Quite the reverse, through them he gives us rest for our souls (Mt.11:28-30). He came to give us life abundantly (Jn.10:10). Jesus is eager for us to find true joy, lasting joy in him.

Love One Another

His command?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Pass his love along. Love others with his love. Abide in his love for you, and then love one another.

Friends

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Friends. Jesus calls us his friends. Intimacy. Relationship.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus invites us in to his confidence. He invites us in as friends. Because he has given us his word, the word of his Father.

Ask and Receive

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You are meant to bear fruit, so ask. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus he would cause you to bear much fruit for his glory. Back in verse 7 he said:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And in chapter 14:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And again in John 16, he says:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus is eager that we talk to him, that we pray, that we ask. He wants to fill up our joy as we bear fruit for him in answer to our prayers.

The Spirit in You

There is one other thread that runs through this passage that we must pay attention to. Back in 14:16, he said:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus will ask his Father to give us his Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit will be in us. Not only are we to abide in Jesus and he will abide in us, and his word will abide in us, but also his Spirit will abide in us. In 14:26 he says:

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.

The Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. He will point us back to the word.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit delivers the word of God. The Spirit seeks the glory of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit living in us to open his word to us and enable us to obey. We need the Spirit to empower us to bear much fruit to the glory of God.

Conclusion

Jesus is coming back for us. We are to be ready, anticipating his return. How are we to wait? Let not your hearts be troubled, but rather trust in him. He is coming back to take us to himself, to be with him. Relationship is the goal. If we abide in him, draw strength and sustenance from him, from his love, we will bear much fruit for his glory. We abide in him by his word abiding in us. We ask him to glorify himself through us. We depend on the presence and power of his Holy Spirit living inside. Abide and pray. Trust, depend on his Spirit. Press in to know him better!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Coming Again!

12/27 Jesus in His Own Words; Coming Again/Coming Back; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201227_jesus-coming-again.mp3

We’ve been looking this Christmas season at Jesus in his own words; what he said about himself, about his coming.

We looked at why he came. Jesus said that he came for sinners (Mk.2:17). He came to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). He came to lay down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:10-11). Jesus came because we had gone astray. He came because we were that bad; to pursue us and rescue us, to forgive our sins. He came to pay our price.

Jesus came. But Jesus claimed to have come differently from anyone else. He claimed to have come from above, to have been sent by his Father, who he claimed is the God we worship. He claimed to have existed from before creation, sharing his Father’s glory. Jesus claimed to be the I AM. Jesus who created all things humbled himself and became human in order to rescue us, to save us from our sins by taking our punishment on the cross.

Advent – Coming

Christmas is all about Jesus, his coming. Traditionally, this season is called Advent, from the Latin adventus which means coming. Jesus came. We celebrate his coming at advent. But Jesus also said that he is coming again; that he is coming back for us. Advent looks back to the coming of Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem. But Advent also looks forward with anticipation to the promise of his coming.

Jesus talked a lot about his coming. Today we will look at a few of the things Jesus said about his coming.

I Will Come Again and Take You to Myself; John 14, 17

At the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus told them that he was going away. Jesus said ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” (Jn.13:33, 36). At first, Peter didn’t understand. But he was beginning to realize that Jesus was talking about his death, so he said he was willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even to lay down his life for him.

The disciples were grieving because Jesus said he was going away. They didn’t want him to leave. He said:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

You cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Jesus promises that he will come again for us, to take us to be with him.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

In fact, in John 17, Jesus’ prayer to his Father, he says:

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

Jesus is praying for the unity of his followers,

John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

And he is praying not only for his original disciples, but he explicitly mentions us, you and me, today.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us to be with him forever. He will come again to take us to himself. We have his word on it.

This could be the word Paul has in mind when he writes to encourage the Thessalonians and correct their misunderstandings:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Lord himself is coming back for us. He went to prepare a place for us. Dead or alive at his coming, we will be raised to meet him in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Jesus is coming again!

Matthew 24; Don’t be Alarmed; Don’t be Led Astray

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicted that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed,(as it was in 70 AD). His disciples asked “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt.24:3).

Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.

He warned that false christs would come to lead many astray. There would be wars and rumors of wars. Wars between nations and kingdoms, famines and earthquakes. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:6 …See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

He told his followers that they would be hated and persecuted, even executed. Did you know that this year around 3,000 of our brothers and sisters were killed because of their faith in Jesus? That’s at least 8 every day [OpenDoors WWL2020].

Jesus said many would fall away and betray one another. False prophets would lead many astray. Lawlessness will increase, and the love of many will grow cold.

Matthew 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

According to the Joshua Project, there are 7,413 people groups unreached with the gospel; that’s 3.23 billion people, 41.6% of the world’s population. Friends, we have a lot of work left to do.

Jesus said the false christs and false prophets would perform great signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. He warned not to believe it if they claim to have found the Christ.

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

This teaching was no doubt the basis for Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 2:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Jesus is coming back for us. Don’t be shaken in mind. Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be deceived. It hasn’t happened yet. You haven’t missed it.

Stay Awake, Be Ready, Watch

Jesus encouraged us to be aware of the signs that indicate his coming is near, but he warned that no one but the Father knows the day or the hour (Mt.24:33-36).

Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

He said:

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Jesus uses the illustration of servants left in charge of their master’s household, and he gives us this encouragement:

Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

In Matthew 25, Jesus uses the illustration of young women awaiting the bridegroom, some who were prepared, and some who were not.

Matthew 25:5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

Matthew 25:10 …the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Jesus compared it to a master leaving for a journey, and entrusting to his servants his property. They were expected to invest wisely and multiply their master’s property.

Matthew 25:19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

To those that invested and multiplied their master’s resources,

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

But the one who perceived the master to be hard and unjust, he said ‘you wicked and slothful servant!’

Matthew 25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. …30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Stay awake! Be ready! Be faithful, be busy serving others. Invest wisely what he has entrusted to your care.

As You Did It to One of the Least of These My Brothers

Jesus says of his coming in Matthew 25:31

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Love for the brothers is evidence of love for the Lord. The gospel reminds us that the righteous aren’t righteous because they do good; they do good because they have been made righteous through the finished work of Christ. The righteous are not even aware of their own good deeds, because they naturally flow out of a transformed heart. The works are evidence of an inward change. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. The kingdom was prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Seek his Kingdom and He will Serve You

In Luke 12, Jesus tells us not to be anxious or worried, but instead to seek the kingdom of God. Then he says:

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

And he gives us this startling encouragement.

Luke 12:35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.

Be ready, be watching, be waiting, be awake, be anticipating his coming. Be ready to serve. And when the Master comes, he turns the tables. He will give you a place at his table, and he will serve you. Because the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). We are to be waiting, be alert, to anticipate his coming and be ready to serve, but it is ultimately he who serves us, not we who serve him.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. This is our King! Our king who humbled himself and became obedient even to death, even death on a cross. Our King is preparing a place for us to be with him. He promised that he is coming back for us. This is our king. Our King is coming! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 31, 2020 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Anticipate His Coming

06/14 Anticipate His Coming; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200614_anticipate-his-coming.mp3

Disciples make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commands. Look up! Wait! That’s what we are going to look at today. Followers of Jesus are to be eagerly anticipating his coming.

During the 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and spoke to them about the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

While his disciples watched, Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of sight. In Acts 7, before Stephen was executed by the Jewish leaders, he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”’ (Acts 7:55-56). Jesus’ physical human body was taken up and is now seated at the right hand of his Father in glory, where he ‘ever lives to make intercession for us’ (Heb.7:25; Rom.8:34).

Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus is coming back. He will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. Physically, bodily. As he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of sight, so the clouds will open up and he will descend back to this earth. Jesus is coming back. So be ready. Be watching. Be alert. Eagerly anticipate his coming.

Waiting and Looking For Salvation

Early in the gospel of Luke, we see a man named Simeon, who was ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’ (Lk.2:25), who when Jesus was presented in the temple at 8 days old, took him up and declared ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’ (Lk.2:30). And we meet Anna, a prophetess, ‘And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem’ (Lk.2:38). Simeon was waiting for the comfort or consolation of Israel which the prophet Isaiah foretold. Many others were there that day who were waiting for the redemption of Israel, and Anna pointed them to the infant Jesus.

In Luke 3, in response to the ministry of John the Baptist,

Luke 3:15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,

There was great expectation of the coming Christ. And John made it clear he was not worthy to untie the sandals of the greater coming one. Later, after John was imprisoned awaiting execution, a report was brought to him about all that Jesus was doing.

Luke 7:18 …And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John was looking for the coming one. At least for John, things were not going as he had hoped. He wanted to be sure that Jesus was indeed the one they were to be looking for.

At the end of Luke’s gospel, we meet Joseph of Arimathea, the man who placed Jesus’ dead body in his own tomb, ‘who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God’ (Mk.15:43; Lk.23:51). There was anticipation, longing, hope. There were many in Israel who were waiting for the redemption of Israel, looking for the kingdom of God expectant of the coming King.

The King is Here

And when Jesus showed up on the scene, he began by:

Mark 1:14 …proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The kingdom of God is at hand because the King is here!

Remember the disciples traveling to Emmaus after the crucifixion? Before they knew it was the risen Lord, they said ‘But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’ (Lk.24:21). He did redeem Israel, and so much more, by his suffering and death.

There was an eager expectation, a hope, a longing, looking for the coming of the Christ. Now Jesus is ascended into heaven, and he will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven. There is to be a longing, an eager expectation, a looking for Jesus to return.

The Church’s Hope: His Glorious Appearing

We are to be waiting, watching. I want to take some time just to skim through the New Testament to see that we are indeed expected to be expectant. We are to be eagerly anticipating Jesus coming back.

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

…23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Paul is pointing to a future expectation and hope, our revealing as sons of God, our adoption, the redemption of our bodies

1 Corinthians 1:7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul thanks God that the Corinthians are waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Jesus is coming back for us and we shall be transformed!

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

By faith, through the Spirit, by grace we eagerly wait; as opposed to seeking to earn righteousness by the law.

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

We await the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven.

Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

You have died with Christ and been raised with him. So set your mind on Christ above. He’s coming back!

1 Thessalonians 1:9 …how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Evidence of the Thessalonians’ salvation is their waiting for Jesus to return for them.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?

Paul anticipates being rewarded for his labor by the Lord Jesus at his coming.

In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul covers some of the same ground he did in 1 Corinthians 15, but is even more specific regarding the disconcerting development of believers who have died before Jesus came back.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This teaching on the return of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of the saints who have died, and the transformation of the saints who are alive at his coming is to be a great encouragement and hope. Notice this is Paul’s hope; he includes himself with all the living believers as he writes; we who are alive at the coming of the Lord.

1 Timothy 6:14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

Paul charges Timothy to flee greed and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness, to fight the good fight until Jesus appears.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

The word is to be preached until Jesus appears

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

We are to be those who have loved his appearing.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Grace and salvation has appeared in Jesus, and now we wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus came the first time to pay for our sin. He is coming back to rescue us who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;

Jesus is coming! Endure.

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Trials produce character that will bring glory to Jesus when he returns.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We have experienced grace upon grace. And more grace is coming to us as the revelation of Jesus Christ!

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

His appearing will be transforming, and the anticipation of his appearing is purifying.

Jude 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Jesus is coming back. We are to be those who love his appearing, who are eagerly waiting for his return.

I Will Come Again and Will Take You To Myself

In John 14, after Jesus told his disciples he was soon to leave them,

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us to be with him. And he promises ‘I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.’ That’s a promise from Jesus.

Don’t Just Stand There Looking Up

When Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were standing around gazing up into the sky, probably wondering how long it would be before he returned to take them to be with him. They were interrupted by the angels.

Acts 1:11 …“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus is coming back in the same way as you saw him go. So why are you standing around looking up into the sky? These two statements of the angels don’t seem to go together. If Jesus is coming back just as you saw him go, then the right thing to do would be to stand there staring up in the sky watching and waiting. That is an event no one should miss!

The angels are not saying that they should stop looking for Jesus to come back. They are correcting the appropriate way we are to be looking for Jesus to come back. We are to anticipate his return, but not by standing around staring up into the sky.

So how are we to be waiting? Consider Simeon. Simeon was righteous and devout, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Or Anna; Anna was worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day, giving thanks to God and speaking of him. Joseph of Arimathea was a good and righteous man, a respected man, who had not consented to the decision of the council to put Jesus to death. He did a courageous thing, and a very practical thing. He asked Pilate for the body of Jesus; he publicly aligned himself with Jesus. And he showed honor to Jesus in a very practical way, caring for his body, giving him honor and dignity, and providing a place for his body to rest. The way these were waiting for the kingdom of God was to be righteous, to worship and pray, to do practical things to honor Jesus.

Many of the New Testament passages we looked at point to walking with integrity, enduring adversity, pursuing purity and living faithfully because of the hope that we have.

The angels had to tell them ‘don’t worry, he will come back the same way you saw him go; you won’t miss it. Anticipate it. But there’s work to be done, so get busy!’

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 15, 2020 Posted by | advent, church, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 3:8-13; Why The Wait?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100307_2peter3_8-13.mp3

03/07 2 Peter 3:8-13 Why the Wait?

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 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.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Peter is encouraging the saints to remain faithful to the Lord and not be swayed by the false teachers. He addresses us four times in this section as ‘beloved’ because he cares deeply about our eternal well being, he knows eternity is at stake, and he will not stand idly by while apostates entice God’s people toward destruction. Peter’s job was reminding the saints of what they already knew. He points us back to our bibles – to the predictions of the holy prophets and to the command of Jesus given through the apostles – as a sure and safe anchor for our souls. The false teachers were teaching that morals don’t matter and that since we are saved by grace alone we can live any way we please and we will not be punished. They question if we will ever be held accountable for any of our actions because they doubt that Jesus is really coming back at all. Peter has made it abundantly clear that those who teach these things have denied the Master who bought them, they are headed straight for the fires of hell, and any who follow them in their immorality will join them in their torment.

In this final chapter, he summarizes the character and argument of the false teachers and answers it with two lines of logic to demonstrate that they stand on shaky ground, and then he draws a practical application with an exhortation to godly living.

He has repeatedly made it clear that the main issue with the false teachers is a moral one. Their doctrine is a way to make them feel better about their lifestyle. Peter says they scoff and follow their own sinful desires. His restatement of their objection to orthodox Christianity, which demands a transformed life, is this:

4 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.”

And his first line of argument was to challenge their truth claims. All things have not continued as they were from the beginning of creation. These false teachers are conveniently omitting one huge event in history – the flood. Men once before lived as they pleased, and after much patience, God wiped out the entire planet with a global catastrophe. God did it once. He can and will do it again.

7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

The second line of reasoning that Peter raises to demonstrate that the teaching of the apostates is foolishness comes from the character of God. And this answer comes in two parts. God is eternal, and God is patient. The false teachers objected that it’s been a long time since he promised that he would come back soon. It appears as if he has abandoned his promise.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter makes reference here to Psalm 90:4

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.

God is from everlasting to everlasting; man comes from dust and soon returns to dust. To us a thousand years is unfathomable. This nation we live in has been around less than 300 years. But from God’s eternal perspective, a thousand years is like yesterday when it is gone. How significant was yesterday in your life? A thousand years is like a day.

There have been several attempts in the history of interpretation to take this verse as a mathematical formula. The first was a way to explain why God told Adam he would die in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, yet he lived to be over 900 years old. Adam didn’t live to be 1000, and if a thousand years is one day to God, then Adam died within the first day from God’s perspective. This misses the point that the death pointed to was not only physical – that day Adam suffered a severed relationship from a God who loves him, and it misses the mercy and grace of God in providing a substitute as God killed an animal in their place and clothed them with its skin. Another chronological interpretation seeks to find an outline of world history, particularly a date for the end, in the days of creation. God took six days to create the world, so the world will last 6000 years. On the seventh day God rested, so after the six thousand years are ended, Jesus will come and reign.

But our text does not say that a thousand years is one day but a thousand years is as a day. And our text says that the reverse is also true – one day is as a thousand years to God. God’s perspective not only compresses time, but expands it. God sees not only the big picture but every minute detail. Time is intensive – God is so intimately acquainted with my life that one day is as a thousand years – he doesn’t miss any details. What we in our impatience think should happen quickly may be thousands of years in delay, but is quick when considered on the backdrop of eternity. And what we think must take an eternity, God can accomplish in a moment of time. The Son of God bore multiplied eternities of punishment for the sins of the world in just three hours of darkness on the cross. The point is not that time is meaningless to God, but that God cannot be confined to operate on our schedules. Understanding that eternity of God makes the scoffing of the scoffers sound as ridiculous as it is; ‘Where is the promise of his coming? It’s been almost 40 years and Jesus hasn’t returned.’ It could be two thousand years and he wouldn’t be considered late. It could be this very moment and we shouldn’t be surprised. The scoffers overlooked the implications of the eternity of God, just like they deliberately overlooked the fact that God’s word was decisive in the creation and destruction of the ancient world.

Peter continues by giving a different interpretation to the perceived delay that fits better with the character of God. Indeed, when Peter wrote the delay had been almost 40 years. When you’re expectantly waiting, that seems like a very long time. Today the promise of the soon coming of Jesus is over 2000 years old. Why the delay? The accusation of the scoffers was that God is slack, slow, lazy, delayed, negligent, impotent – he lacks the power to fulfill his promises. He won’t because he can’t. Peter rather points us to the biblical picture of the character of God; God who is patient, long-suffering, loving, merciful, gracious. This is the picture that the bible consistently paints of God. This is the picture that God paints of himself:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God is characteristically forbearing – [makrothumia] – he bears with sinners; holds back his wrath; refrains from intervening in judgment as soon as the our deeds deserve it, though he will not hold back indefinitely. The prophet Jonah understood well the character of God. This was Jonah’s complaint against God and his excuse for fleeing.

Jonah 4:2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God well enough that he was afraid God might actually forgive the Ninevites rather than destroying them as he had threatened. But God can accomplish his purpose even if it takes a great fish to swallow his wayward prophet and deliver him to the intended recipients of his mercy. God has a reputation for being rich in mercy.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved––

God is exercising self-restraint in the face of grievous provocation so that he does not hastily retaliate. But we are warned – do not presume on God’s patience. Paul writes:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man––you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself––that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is rich in mercy, kindness, forbearance and patience, but this does not mean that he is soft on sin. God’s wrath will be revealed, and if you are presuming on God’s patience, Paul says you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Instead God’s merciful patience has a goal – to lead us to repentance. That’s what Peter is telling us here:

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The delay in the return of Christ and the consequent judgment is due not to slackness but to mercy – mercy toward you, Peter says. These letters were intended to be read in the churches to whom they were addressed. Imagine this church, a church where apostate false teachers possibly held positions of authority, and had gathered a following in their immorality. These were the ones who may have taught on Sunday morning ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ And Peter addresses them; “The Lord is patient toward YOU!” Peter is pointing out to these false teachers and any who have followed their error that God’s delay in coming is meant to give further opportunity for them to repent. God’s heart is indeed abundantly compassionate and merciful and his desire is for their repentance. Repentance – this indicates that their hearts and lives are moving in a direction away from the Lord and they need to forsake the direction they have chosen and turn back. The irony is that they use this merciful delay as a pretense for immorality rather than running for cover to the cross of our Lord Jesus. But God will not postpone his righteous wrath indefinitely. Peter re-affirms that the day of judgment will indeed come:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,

The emphasis is on the certainty of the event – it will come, the day of the Lord. And it will come unexpectedly and catch many off guard. Paul picked up on Jesus’ teaching and compared the coming of the day of the Lord with a thief:

I Thessalonians 5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

The day of the Lord will surely come, and it will come like a thief on those who are not watching and waiting for him. And Peter’s description of what follows is cataclysmic:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

The picture Peter paints is of the layers of atmosphere being peeled away to reveal to the eye of God what is being done by those that live on the earth. The revelation of Jesus Christ given to John paints a very similar picture:

Revelation 6:13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

But Peter’s point (and John’s point) is not to explain exactly how things will unfold in the end times or to give us a detailed sequence of events or to satisfy our curiosity about the makeup of the universe. All God’s truth has a moral purpose. Life as we know it is coming to an end. The earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Every man will stand before the God of the universe and give an account, as it says in Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Peter draws this conclusion:

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be…

Lots of people are curious about eschatology. If we advertise a seminar on the sequence of end time events and the book of Revelation, we can pack out an auditorium. If we hint that we will be suggesting a date, we could even get media coverage. But all that is missing the point! Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? What sort of people ought we to be? Peter doesn’t leave us wondering.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,…

Our lives ought to be characterized by holiness and godliness. Our lives ought to be different from the world around us. Our values ought to be different from the people around us. Our goals and dreams and hopes and desires, our attitudes, our free time, our spending must be different from the world. Peter described us as ‘elect exiles’, ‘sojourners and aliens’. And the standard is God himself. We are to live in such a way that our neighbors observe us and they begin to understand what God is like! Peter wants people to ‘see your good deeds and glorify God’ (1Pet.2:12). Does that feel heavy? Too much? More than we can pull off? Praise God, yes it is!

Peter began the letter pointing us to the fact that ‘His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2Pet.1:3). It is through God’s gracious promises – not our own efforts – that we have ‘escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire’ (1:4). Peter went on to describe that the effective fruitful life of intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ will be characterized by an ever-increasing display of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. And all this is rooted in and stems from faith – trust in the promises that God has freely given to us; promises to transform us from the inside out. Promises to save us from sin and set us free to live lives of radical Christ exalting holiness.

God is not tardy but patient toward you. What sort of people ought we to be?

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Our lives are also to be characterized by waiting – eager expectation – hope. Since we are strangers and aliens, since we are not home yet, there ought to be an ache – a longing in our hearts for home. This world is a mess. This world has been wrecked by the fall, corrupted by sin and it awaits the final judgment, when the Righteous Judge will right all wrongs and make ugly things beautiful again. We are people of the promise – by faith trusting that what he said will happen. Jesus told us that he is going to prepare a place for us – a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness is no longer an alien and a stranger, but at home. The new heavens and new earth will be characterized by righteousness. If we want to be at home in the new heavens and new earth, then we must become righteous.

Where is the promise of his coming? When is Jesus coming back? Peter’s answer is ‘sooner, if you will repent!’ If God desires all to come to repentance and he is holding back his wrath to make room for sinners to run to him, then by running to him you will speed up his coming. By pursuing personal transformation and a life of holiness, you will speed his coming. Jesus taught us to pray ‘your kingdom come’ and Jesus responds to the prayers of his people!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 7, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Second Coming of Jesus

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091227_second_coming_of_jesus.mp3

12/27/09 – the second coming of Jesus

We’ve spent some time this season looking at Jesus; at who Jesus is. We saw that Jesus claimed to be the eternal all glorious pre-existent self existent one, sent from the Father, equal to and one with his Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father, in and of himself truly and fully God.

We saw that the response of the wise men to Jesus was the appropriate response – they came to worship him. They brought gifts and expended time and energy and made the sacrifices of a long journey and yet counted it all joy to have the privilege of welcoming this king born in Bethlehem.

We’ve seen in the good news of Christmas that God humbled himself and became a man, truly and fully man. In addition to being God, Jesus took on the nature of genuine humanity. God himself, the eternal self-existent uncreated creator of all things, the second person of the Trinity, entered history and became flesh. He was born into this world as a man in order to be our substitute and rescue us from sin and death and hell. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for rebellious sinners like you and me.

Another name for the time leading up to Christmas is Advent – from a Latin word that means arrival. We celebrate the arrival of Jesus. And his coming was inconspicuous and non-threatening. Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that he emptied himself and he humbled himself. In his coming he fully identified himself with us (Heb.4:15)

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He made God known to us in a form that was comprehensible. Unpretentious. Touchable. Holdable. Real. Even adorable or cute in his apparent helplessness.

It was dangerous for God to reveal himself to us this way. There is a danger for us in seeing Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. Many would feel uncomfortable visiting someone in a palace, but no-one feels intimidated to enter a barn. Some may refuse to enter a barn because they are offended at the smell or they don’t want to soil their shoes, but no-one feels that they are not good enough to enter a barn. There are people we dare not violate their personal space, and it can be awkward to look someone in the eye, but there is something about an infant that invites intimacy and touching. Perfect strangers make fools of themselves making faces and sounds that otherwise they would be embarrassed to make. “What’s his name? How old is he? Can I hold him?” Babies seem to break down social barriers. We don’t have to climb up to reach them, we have to stoop down to their level. It seems there is much more interest in celebrating Christmas than there is in celebrating Good Friday, even though Christmas was an essential first step toward the cross. There is something dangerously comfortable about thinking of Jesus as a babe in the hay. We might want to keep him there, where he is safe, harmless, non-threatening, un-intimidating, approachable, ordinary. I say dangerous because familiarity sometimes breeds contempt. Think of those from Jesus’ hometown. They were excited when their hometown boy made headline news. But when he returned home and taught in the synagogue he grew up in, the townsfolk who knew him took offense at him (Matt.13:53-58). “I remember when you were only this big. I used to babysit you. I changed your diapers. Who do you think you are?”

The commonness of Jesus, the humble circumstances of his birth, the approachability of a baby, the ordinariness of it all may cause us to miss or disbelieve who he is. Remember what the angel said to Mary:

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy––the Son of God.

Jesus was a real child born in the ordinary way, but Jesus is absolutely holy, totally set apart, unique and different. When Isaiah was in the presence of the one who was proclaimed by the seraphim to be ‘Holy, holy, holy’, he was undone and declared ‘woe to me’ (Is.6:3-5). We must see Jesus as the man who could legitimately stand in our place and bear the wrath of a holy God against the sins of mankind, but we must not allow our understanding of who he is to be limited to the manger.

Advent means arrival or coming. We have been looking at the advent of Messiah. But in scripture, there is a second advent, a second arrival, a second coming of the Messiah, Jesus. When Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after his resurrection the angels said:

Acts 1:11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus himself promised his disciples:

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

But the second coming of Jesus will be much different than his first coming. Jesus prayed to his Father:

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

In the first coming, Jesus emptied himself of his glory. He humbled himself and took on the form of a servant. But Jesus described his coming again as a coming in power and great glory:

Matthew 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (cf. Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27)

John, one of the inner circle of three disciples who witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, one of the three who were brought with him to the garden to pray, one who was there at the trial and crucifixion, who leaned against Jesus at the last supper, who described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, this John, when he was given a glimpse of Jesus in his glory had this response:

Revelation 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

We’ve seen who Jesus claimed to be – that he claimed to be the omnipotent eternal uncreated creator of all things, the one who is self-existent and by whom all things exist. We’ve seen that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh and that he claimed to be equal to and one with the Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father. When we stand at the manger our response should not be ‘awwww’. Our response to Jesus should be worship, awe, the fear of the Lord. The wise men from the east got on their faces in the presence of the toddler Jesus. What was it that caused John to have this response? John saw the glory of Jesus. Let’s look at what he saw, and let’s be moved with him to awe:

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two–edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Jesus was moving among his lampstands the churches. He wore a long robe – a priestly robe, because as Hebrews teaches, he is our great high priest. He wore a golden sash around his chest because he is our king, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of king and Lord of lords, to whom every knee shall bow. His hair, a symbol of his wisdom, was white like wool, reminding us of Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days (Dan.7:9). His eyes are too pure to look on evil with favor, and penetrate to the hidden places of our hearts, and his feet remind us of the refiner’s fire and the righteous judgment of God who will one day crush all who oppose him. His voice will thunder and put a stop to all competing voices. He holds complete authority over all creation and over his churches in the palm of his hand. Jesus is the living Word of God and Jesus said:

John 12:48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

Jesus is the light of the world. The glory of Jesus was greater in intensity than the sun shining in full strength.

Later in Revelation, John again gets a glimpse of Jesus in the glory that he had with his Father before the world existed (Jn.17:5)

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

This is a description of Jesus coming in power and great glory. This same Jesus who came in humility will come again in a display of strength and justice. When he attended the synagogue in Nazareth,

Luke 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The next line in Isaiah 61, that Jesus did not read, says this:

…and the day of vengeance of our God; (Isaiah 61:2)

That scripture will be fulfilled in Jesus at his second coming. Paul describes this righteous judgment of God in 2 Thessalonians:

2Thessalonians 1:5 … the righteous judgment of God …7 … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

This same Jesus, who came in weakness and helplessness as a baby, will come again in flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Later in the book, Paul describes Jesus dealing with Antichrist in this way:

2Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

This is Jesus. Friend of sinners who run to him for salvation, extending forgiveness to all who come, merciful and compassionate, but to those who reject him, he destroys his enemies by the breath of his mouth. This is the picture we have in Revelation 6 of the Christ rejecting world:

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

When Jesus spoke of his coming in power and glory, he told us to ‘stay awake’ (Mt.24:42) and to ‘be ready’ (Mt.24:44) and to ‘watch’ (Mt.25:13). He says

Luke 21:34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

Jesus tells us:

Luke 21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

For those who are prepared for and looking for his return, it is an occasion of great joy. John gives us some helpful instruction on how to prepare our hearts to receive the king:

1John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

In John 15, Jesus used the metaphor of a branch abiding in the vine and bearing much fruit. Run to Jesus to find forgiveness at the cross and abundant life. Stay continually plugged in to him, daily drawing strength from him, enjoying intimacy of fellowship with him. Know him, so that when he comes in power and glory we rejoice at the coming of our victorious king rather than shrinking from the wrath of our just judge.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 27, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 1:19-21; Pay Attention to the Prophetic Word

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091115_2peter1_19-21.mp3

11/15 2 Peter 1:19-21 Pay Attention to the Prophetic Word

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter is writing into a situation where false teachers were denying the future literal coming of Jesus as judge and king to rule and reign. They were advocating a disregard of moral restraint because this talk of a king coming on a white horse with a sword is mere fairy tale, and we are much to sophisticated to believe that sort of thing. They would reject as myth things like 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, where Paul says:

2 Thessalonians 1:7 … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

That’s just the sort of thing that someone would make up to scare you into listening to them and doing what they tell you to do.

Peter is arguing that a life lived in earnest pursuit of holiness really does matter; and it should be motivated by the expectation of the return of Jesus and the hope of entrance into his eternal kingdom. His first line of argument went like this: ‘No, Jesus really is coming again as judge and king, we can say this with confidence because we were eyewitnesses of the transfiguration; where God the Father installed Jesus as that coming messianic King who will rule and judge the nations. We were at his coronation ceremony. We were there for his inauguration. God himself sealed it with his own words.’

In verses 19-21, Peter lays out his second line of reasoning why we know for sure that Jesus really is coming back and living a life of godliness really does matter. We have the prophetic word – the Old Testament – that all points to Jesus the coming King, and that word is ratified by the installation of Jesus as king on the mount of transfiguration. Peter says that we do well to pay attention to it – it is a lamp to light our way until Jesus comes back. We must pay close heed because the word is not the product of human invention but rather it is divine communication. Peter points us here to our bibles. He wants us to keep our noses in them and to base our lives on them. He gives us great insight into the origin and intention of our bibles. Let’s look at what he has to say.

19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The prophetic word; We have clarification on what this phrase means in verse 20, where the ‘prophetic word’ is referred to as ‘prophecy of Scripture’ or ‘prophetic writing’. For Jesus, ‘It is written’ was decisive in any argument. In Judaism, all of Scripture was considered prophetic. The singular refers to all Old Testament writings as a unity pointing to the coming Messiah.

More sure; The NASB has “So we have the prophetic word made more sure” and the NIV has “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain”; The ESV has “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word”. There is a subtle difference in the understanding of the original phrase that is represented by the different translations. What is clear is that the prophetic word is absolutely sure. The question is; does the transfiguration make the prophetic word more certain, or is the prophetic word said to be more certain than even the eyewitness accounts of the transfiguration? If you have a healthy respect for the scriptures you might opt for the second choice and ask ‘how can the scriptures be made more sure by any experience? – they are absolutely sure in themselves’. And I think Peter would agree, but his grammar points to the idea that the prophetic word is made more certain or confirmed by the transfiguration event. Not that scripture cannot stand without external testimony; it can. The scriptures are trustworthy because of what they are and who they come from, as Peter will make explicit in the next verses. But here he is saying that they are demonstrated trustworthy in that we actually saw the fulfillment of the prophecies unfold before our eyes. This is not the first time Peter has used this word ‘made more sure’. In verse 10, he tells us to “be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” – and in that context it raises some of the same questions.. We cannot change what was done in the hidden councils of God before time began, but we can validate that decision and demonstrate that we are elect by doing what elect people do (and that starts by embracing Jesus). Just as my life demonstrates what (or whose) I am, the unfolding of prophetic events does not make the bible more trustworthy, but it demonstrates and puts on display what it inherently is.

19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

And here Peter gets to his main instruction for us. Pay attention! Pay attention to the prophetic word! Pay attention to your bibles! There is a note of encouragement here – you do well to pay attention – so keep it up! Don’t waylaid by false teachers who would turn you aside from studying and believing and obeying your bibles.

Peter compares the word of God to a lamp shining in a dark place. The word is compared to a light in Psalms and Proverbs:

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

If you’ve ever been in a really dark place you understand the importance of a reliable light. There was a system of caves a few blocks from our college campus that I and some of my friends enjoyed exploring. I got to be relatively familiar with the small winding passageways. There was a tight entrance that opened into a large room with the ceiling covered in bats. Then there was a low crawl-way that led to another large room with many small tunnels leading in different directions. Once past the crawl-way there was no natural light that filtered in. Turn off your flashlight and there was absolute darkness. We would inch along on our bellies through these tight tunnels. On one expedition, we took some novice classmates in to explore, and half our little group lost interest and decided to turn around and head out while I and a friend wanted to continue. After the novices were out of earshot, I suggested that we hurry and take a turn in the tunnel we were in which I knew led back to the first room, where we would wait in the dark to terrify our novice friends. But in the rush to beat them out, we missed the critical turn and several hours later realized our little joke was on us. We had brought extra lights, but it was still sobering to see our flashlight beams dim as the batteries wore down. I enjoy the challenge of exploration, but the thought of trying to find our way groping in the pitch blackness was somehow not appealing. Our lights held up and we were able to eventually find our way out. But once we climbed out in broad daylight, our trusty lights that had served us so well in the winding little passageways were now completely irrelevant. Their weak beams were drowned out in the overwhelming light of the sun.

Peter tells us ‘pay attention to the prophetic word – it is a lamp shining in a dark place. But Peter has the end firmly in view. He uses that hope-filled word ‘until‘. As Isaiah predicted:

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (c.f. Matthew 4:16)

We dwell in a land of deep darkness. The word of God lights our path. But one glorious day, the light will dawn.

Isaiah 60:1Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

But until – until that day when we look up from our bibles to see Jesus face to face. Until then ‘your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Ps.119:105); I find my delight in your commandments, which I love (Ps.119:47); Every word of God proves true (Prov.30:5); All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (2Tim.3:16); whatever was written in former times was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom.15:4). Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture (1Tim.4:13).

19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter wants us to know something that is of critical importance. In a day when false teachers are undermining the word of God, it is essential that we understand the nature of the Scriptures. It is somewhat ironic to me that in a verse that says ‘no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation, there is a great variety of interpretation as to what exactly Peter meant by the words he chose. The two main views are represented in these different translations:

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, (NKJV)

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. (NIV)

The King James Version represents the standard Roman Catholic interpretation, and the NIV represents the standard Protestant understanding. The Catholic church would say that this verse refers to the interpretation by Christians of the written word. The scriptures are not to be put into the hands of the common people, because they are not authorized to interpret them correctly. The scriptures must be interpreted by the Church, not private individuals.

The historic Protestant response was to say that this verse has nothing to do with modern day biblical interpretation; what this verse is talking about is the process of writing the Scriptures; the prophet’s interpretation of historical events or his dreams or visions was not his own invention.

Some modern day Evangelicals (Schreiner, Piper) have taken the first interpretation that this refers to present day biblical interpretation and taken this to mean not that the scriptures can only be handled correctly by the Pope, but that the scriptures are not open to any personal whim of interpretation. You can’t make a verse mean whatever you want it to mean. It has a definite meaning intended by its Author.

Although there is not a shred of evidence in these verses to point to the church as the official interpreter of Scripture, both of the evangelical views have been defended by good men. And both represent a correct understanding of Scripture. The bible did not originate by the prophet’s own invention, and the bible does not leave its meaning open to every reader to be manipulated into whatever shape they fancy. Words mean things and there is one right and many wrong interpretations. But in the flow of this passage, the focus is on the origin and authenticity of the prophetic word, not on its current interpretation. When the prophets spoke of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, they were not throwing around their own opinions of what their visions and dreams meant. He goes on to explain:

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Genuine prophecy was never borne along by the human will. This is where false prophecies came from:

Jeremiah 23: 16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.”’ …26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?

Notice there is a moral (or immoral)aspect to prophecy – they say ‘it will be well with you’ to those who despise the word of the Lord. This is exactly what the false teachers were doing in Peter’s day, and this is why Peter highlighted the moral responsibility of genuine believers.

No prophecy was carried along by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is why you do well to pay careful attention to the prophetic word – because it has its origin in God. Yes, men spoke – there was a human element to the prophetic word. Moses and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Daniel and David were all unique individuals with distinct personalities and styles that come through in their respective writings, but they spoke from God. And they spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The word ‘carried along’ is also used in Acts of a ship being driven by the wind:

Acts 27: 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. … 17 …Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.

This is also the word used in verses 17-18 of the voice carried or borne from heaven to bestow honor and glory on the Son.

17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was carried to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice carried from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever carried out by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit blows men along to speak from God in such a way that the author of Hebrews can quote Psalm 95 and say:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,

And then again quoting the same passage, he can say:

Hebrews 4:7 again he [God] appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

So the mighty coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was attested by the voice of God the Father himself when he installed Jesus as King on his holy mountain; and his powerful coming is attested by all of Scripture which originated in God as he impelled men to write by his Holy Spirit. So pay attention! Jesus is coming back! Pay attention to the prophetic word! Pay attention so that there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1:11). Pay attention when the prophetic word commands that you make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. You will do well to pay attention to God’s word which is a lamp shining in a very dark place. Pay attention, because the day is ready to break!

November 15, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment