So we have wandered far and wide this past year. We have read the story of how God created everything out of nothing and how we messed it all up by our pride and arrogance. We have read about the flood of God’s holiness and wrath being poured out on a rebellious human race, except for the chosen man of God, Noah. We have read about a man who has a son at 100 years old, the coat of many colors, and the parting of the Red Sea. We have seen and heard from King David, his son Solomon and prophet after prophet of God. We read the fourfold story of Jesus and got a glimpse of how His church was founded and grew. We heard from the Apostle to us, Gentiles, to tell us how to live as a church of Jesus and just recently we saw that one day Jesus will win, and us with Him, if we are on His team. We got the opportunity to see how messed up Jesus lineage was with men and women in it like; Judah, Rahab, David, and Josiah. We read 66 books that were all about the same person and yet each different in how they presented said person. We have read the very words of God the revelation He intends for His children to have about Him. We have seen the Word, the living revelation of God, to us. We have read and even felt the ultimate controlled sacrifice for the rebellious and idolatrous people. This past year we have read through the greatest story ever told. But as I have said all year, it is not about how much of God’s Word you read, it is about getting in and staying in the Word of God. The Word of God is the most powerful force we know. This is the force that gives life, convicts the soul, condemns to death, and creates out of nothing. Why would one not desire to tap into this power? I pray that each person that undertook reading through the Bible was blessed, encouraged, challenged, and strengthened through the time in God’s Word. A New Year is upon us, so whether you read through the Bible again, or have another reading plan as I do, stay in the Word and I guarantee God will be glorified through it.
We have been reading through the book of Revelation since the middle of last week. We have a few more days to go, and then we will be through the final book of God’s Word. Here is something amazing to consider about this final book. The final book of Scripture points and takes us right back to the first chapter of the Bible in Genesis 1. Revelation 22 and Genesis 1 point towards each other and even point to the main point of the Bible, the Savior of the World. These 2 chapters are the bookends of the Bible and complete the story of Jesus, at least the story we need told here on this earth. Also wanted to share the best way to describe Revelation in 2 simple, profound, hope giving, and joyous words….JESUS WINS
Today we began to read the beginning of the end. A few things to remember as we read through Revelation over the next week. #1-this is a letter to the churches, so we can read it just like the rest of the letters in the New Testament. #2-this is also apocalyptic literature in the style of Daniel and Zechariah so there are many aspects of the letter that must be picked through. But John and Jesus would have used images that the churches in the first century churches would have understood (John was not talking about an apache helicopter).
But here is something to ponder as we celebrate Christmas in a few days. This letter to the churches was Jesus telling the churches it was the beginning of the end. The last days were upon the church and even now 2000 year later the last days are still upon us. Remember what Peter says about God, a day is like 1000 years to God and 1000 years is like a day. But did you know the beginning of the end actually started the night Jesus was born? That night on the bloody birth of the Savior, the end of all things began to start. Picture it like dominos and how they fall and knock the next one down. The birth of the Savior was the first domino to fall and the beginning of the end of sin, death, brokenness, human rule, and Satan was on. The bloody Cross, the resurrection, the accession, the church, and Jesus return are all other dominos, but the beginning of the end has started. Does Jesus birth help get you ready for the end?
Jude identified himself as a follower of Jesus Christ and “a brother of James.” Jude was listed among the brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3). His brother James is the probable author of the epistle of James. Jude gave no geographical designation to his readers, but he presented them as those who were “called,” “loved by God,” and “kept by Jesus Christ.” Jude wished his readers an experience of mercy that would allow them to know the benefits of peace and love.
Occasion for Writing (3–4)
Jude had prepared to write a letter on the theme of “salvation” when he learned of the entrance of false teachers. He urged his readers to contend for the faith by living godly, obedient lives. He described the false teachers as “godless men,” who stood condemned before God because of their denial of Jesus’ lordship.
Be Alert (5–16)
Jude pictured the heretics as deserving to receive God’s judgments just as the unbelieving Jews, the sinning angels, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had merited judgment. He showed that the false teachers were arrogantly defying God by their perverse moral behavior. They disdained angelic creatures whom they failed to understand. Jude commended the example of the angel Michael, who did not deal with the devil’s protests on his own authority. Jude used this story from the apocryphal Assumption of Moses to demonstrate a proper attitude toward the supernatural. In verses 10–13 he used historical examples from the Old Testament to characterize the false teachers as materialistic and immoral. They were as greedy as Balaam and as rebellious as Korah. In verses 14–15 Jude cited a statement from 1 Enoch to prove the reality of divine judgment upon the ungodly. Jude was not necessarily viewing 1 Enoch as inspired, but he was referring to a book his readers would know and respect.
Jude reminded his readers that the apostles had warned against the divisiveness and spiritual emptiness of the coming false teachers. The recipients were to build themselves up with prayer and obedience. They also were to offer help to wandering believers who need both an experience of divine mercy and the wisdom to avoid corruption.
Jude’s mind focused on the power of almighty God who alone could provide the strength needed for full obedience. In verse 24 he praised God for His sustaining power toward believers. In verse 25 he ascribed “glory, majesty, power and authority” to God because of the work of Jesus Christ.
I am a theology and doctrine nerd. I love me some good Bible based doctrine. So I thought today I would unpack a little from 1 John, the different doctrines that John teaches in this letter to the churches. So I list each doctrine and then highlight some of John’s teaching on it. Enjoy the feast of God’s Revelation. J
The Doctrine of God John highlights two important characteristics of God. First, God is light (1:5). Second, God is love (4:8). Both of these qualities are essential attributes of God. To walk in the light is to walk in the life of God. To practice love is to demonstrate the character of God.
The Doctrine of Sin First John 3:8 states that the devil is the source of sin, for he “sinned from the beginning.” Sin in the individual is the result of the devil’s hold upon a person, and victory over sin is in reality victory over the devil himself. John describes sin as darkness (1:5–7), lawlessness or rebellion (3:4), and unrighteousness (5:17). Sin is universal and comprehensive. Therefore, every person is a sinner and commits sins (1:8, 10).
The Doctrine of Christology Jesus is presented as the Son of God, and the reality of the incarnation of the preexistent Word is stressed. Twenty-one times Jesus is called the Son in 1 John and twice in 2 John. John states that the Son “was with the Father” and is Himself the “life” of God (1:1–3). Jesus is the “true God and eternal life” (5:20), a direct affirmation of the Son’s deity. He was sinless (3:5), and He made atonement for the sins of the whole world (2:2, 4:10). He destroyed the devil’s work (1 John 3:8), accomplishing all of this by His death (1 John 5:6). His death was a demonstration of the Father’s love (4:9–11) for sinful humanity. He could do all of this because He took on tangible, real human flesh (1:1–3). The incarnation was a true and genuine wedding of perfect deity and sinless humanity.
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit The Spirit witnesses to the believer concerning the true teaching about Jesus the Christ (2:27; 5:7–8). The Spirit Himself is a gift of anointing. He has been given to the believer (3:24) and enables him to overcome the world (4:4). As the Spirit of truth (4:6), He helps the believer to recognize the false prophets who speak and teach wrongly concerning Jesus.
The Doctrine of Salvation The redemptive work of Jesus Christ has made possible our salvation (2:2; 3:16; 4:10). By believing and receiving the Son (5:10–13) one is born again (5:1), becomes a child of God (3:1–2), and receives the gift of eternal life. Through the new birth we are enabled to do “what is right” (2:29). We may commit individual acts of sin (1:8, 10; 2:1), but we will not habitually live in sin (3:6–9). In salvation God has come to live (abide) in us and we in God (4:15–16).
The Doctrine of Eschatology John lived in the expectancy that the parousia was imminent. He said, “It is the last hour” (2:18). The evidence included the presence of “many antichrists.” John also looked to the eschatological coming of Antichrist as well (2:18; 4:3). John sees the world as already passing away (2:17), indicating that the victory of Christ won at the cross is already underway, yet it awaits a final and climactic consummation. The day of judgment is coming (4:17). Those who live in God and He in them will have confidence in that day and no fear (4:18). When He comes, our transformation will be made complete for “we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is” (3:2). Assured of a right standing before God through faith in His Son who provided atonement for sin, we love God and others, and with this hope in us, we purify ourselves, just as He is pure (3:3).
Call to Virtue (1:3–21)
God has already acted to call Christians to himself. He has by sovereign grace given them all that is needed to truly live in a godly manner. And he has set fantastic promises before them. They must not allow themselves to be caught again in the moral morass of the world, for it was God’s purpose in saving them to enable them to escape from this trap. Instead they should become like Christ (“participate in the divine nature”) and must therefore grow in Christian virtue. If they fail in this growth they miss God’s promises, but zealousness to move forward will confirm their election and their future in heaven (1:3–11). Peter is about to die, as Jesus predicted (John 21:18-19). The purpose of this letter is to encourage his readers once more to moral steadfastness. Peter’s encouragement is important for two reasons: first because he was truly an eyewitness of Christ’s glory (i.e., the transfiguration, an event that must have deeply impressed Peter, but is cited here because it revealed the glory, power, and authority of Jesus and bound OT and NT together). Unlike the false teachers, his tradition is based on what God really did, not in mere speculation. Second, his experience confirms OT prophecy. Like Peter and his followers in the apostolic tradition, the OT prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus the Spirit alone gives the true interpretation, and the idiosyncratic interpretations of the false teachers are therefore wrong.
The most notable aspect of 1 Peter may be its frequent references to suffering (1:6, 11; 2:19–23; 3:14, 17–18; 4:1, 13, 15–16, 19; 5:1, 9–10). There is an assumption that members of the church are “aliens” on earth, or people lacking the honor and support they would typically derive from family and civic ties (1:1, 17,1:2–5). The letter calls for endurance, reflects upon the meaning and value of suffering, and prescribes practical steps the readers might take to make life more bearable (e.g., they should look to the church as a support community and not behave in ways that antagonize the opposition unnecessarily). Another prominent theme in 1 Peter is the depiction of Christians as the new Israel; terminology and categories traditionally employed for Jews are applied to Gentile Christians (1:1, 8–12; 2:9)—and the term “Gentile” is used as an epithet for pagans or unbelievers (2:12; 4:3). Thus, 1 Peter interprets conversion to God and to Jesus as “a new birth” (1:3, 23) involving a radical change of identity and status.
The letter of James was written (1) to strengthen Jewish Christians undergoing trial (Jas 1:2–4, 13–15; 5:7–11); (2) to correct a misunderstanding of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith (2:14–26); and (3) to pass down to first-generation Christians a wealth of practical wisdom. James’s theology is not dogmatic; it omits the great theological themes that dominate Paul’s writings and play such an important role in the rest of the books of the NT. James makes no mention of the Incarnation, and the name of Christ appears only twice (1:1; 2:1). No mention is made of Christ’s sufferings, death, or resurrection. James’s theology is practical and has a decided Jewish flavor. The distinctive Christian features, of course, are there. James has simply mingled the two to produce a Jewish-Christian document.
Temptations and Trials The typically Jewish teachings—joy in trials and the use of trials for the building and perfecting of character—are both found in the letter (1:2–4). James also discusses the origin of temptation (vv 13–15). Here the author comes into conflict with contemporary Jewish theology. The rabbinical solution to the problem of the origin of sin was that there was an evil tendency in man that enticed man to sin. The rabbis reasoned that since God is the Creator of all things, including the evil impulse in people, they are not responsible for their sins. No, says James. “And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires”.
Law The entire letter is concerned with ethical teaching; there is no mention of the central gospel truths of Christ’s death and resurrection. James presupposes the gospel and presents the ethical side of Christianity as a perfect law. He seems to be reassuring his Jewish-Christian readers that for them there is still law. The law (ethical teaching of Christianity) is a perfect law (1:25) because it was perfected by Jesus Christ. It is also a law of freedom—that is, a law that applies to those who have freedom, not from law, but from sin and self through the “word of truth.” Thus “law” is a Palestinian-Christian Jew’s way of describing the ethical teaching of the Christian faith, the standard of conduct for the believer in Jesus Christ. This tendency to describe Christian ethical teaching as law is found in 2:8–13, a passage that arises out of a rebuke against the favoritism that James’s readers were showing toward the rich. This favoritism was being condoned by an appeal to the law of love to one’s neighbor. So James writes, “It is good when you truly obey our Lord’s royal command”.
Faith and Works Faith plays an important role in the theology of James. The basic element of piety is belief in God—not merely belief in his existence but belief in his character as being good and benevolent in his dealings with mankind (1:6). Faith includes belief in the power of God and in his ability to perform miraculous acts; it is closely associated with prayer (5:15–16; cf. 1:6). James has a dynamic concept of faith and clearly goes beyond Judaism when he speaks of faith directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ (2:1). The best-known passage in which faith is mentioned is James 2:14–26, where it is contrasted with works. From a close study of this passage, it can be determined that James is not contradicting Paul. For both James and Paul, faith is directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ; such faith will always produce good works. The faith of which James speaks is not faith in the Hebraic sense of trust in God that results in moral action. This is not recognized as true faith by James and Paul would agree with him.
Wisdom James’s concept of wisdom also reveals the Jewish background of the letter. Wisdom is primarily practical, not philosophical. It is not to be identified with reasoning power or the ability to apprehend intellectual problems; it has nothing to do with the questions how or why. It is to be sought by earnest prayer and is a gift from God (1:5). Both of these ideas find their roots in the Wisdom Literature of the Jews. The wise man demonstrates his wisdom by his good life (3:13), whereas the wisdom that produces jealousy and selfishness is not God’s kind of wisdom (vv 15–16).
Melchizedek stands alone, this voice from the past, but Jesus is genuinely unique, and one of the great psalms underlines the difference. Psalm 110 is one of the most quoted Old Testament passages. Jesus himself speaks of his lordship as being corroborated here (Mark 12:35–37). Tucked away in that messianic psalm is a reintroduction of Melchizedek and his relationship to Jesus:
For it is declared:
“You are a priest for ever,
in the order of Melchizedek”
This unique promise of a priesthood that lasts forever was necessary because then, as now, all religious ceremonies were imperfect and passing. The Old Testament law was always pointing forward to a day of fulfillment, not to a better way of doing the old things, but of a perfect revolutionary way. So Jesus would come not from the priestly tribe of Levi but the regal tribe of Judah, David’s line, and he was predicted with a solemn divine oath (‘The Lord has sworn …’, v. 21). God is saying loudly, ‘Watch this space’.
The Jewish religious world was dominated by genealogy, just as our rootless Western society spares no expense and uses up much time to trace one’s ancestry and find that elusive reality, ‘roots’. The Old Testament tells the story of the succession of priests of varying worth. But good and bad alike, all suffered from the same weakness. They all died!
So, too, did Jesus, but, risen and ascended, he lives forever and his ministry in heaven speaks not only of a completed work, but also of a continuing work: ‘But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood’ (v. 24). The work of atonement is over and our heavenly status sure, but his work as high priest continues in intercession (v. 25—see also Rom. 8:34). Here is a unique priesthood which relegates Old Testament priesthood to history, and all modern attempts to revive it to dangerous irrelevance.
With verse 25, who wants more? Here is the promise of one who is able to save ‘completely’, ‘to the end’. For assurance in the hour of doubt or testing, this verse ranks alongside John 13:1, with its promise of Jesus loving ‘to the end’ (NKJV). It speaks of absolute, complete, unending love. We all depend upon human love in family and friendship, but inevitably there will be disappointments and frailty. This is different with him. What a friend we have in Jesus!
Melchizedek’s work is done, and he can now go back into the mists of history. We are left with this unique person, high priest and sacrifice all in one, all ancient prophecies fulfilled. In every way Jesus meets our needs. In his humanity, he understands us perfectly; in his sinless perfection, he can become the unique sacrifice for us. So in verse 27, the special words of this letter recur—‘once for all’. To find a human counselor who understands us is a difficult thing. For someone who can link that responsibility with an ability to meet our deepest need of forgiveness and hope there is only one candidate, and he offers himself to us, as well as to these Jewish converts, unreservedly.
As I said yesterday, Hebrews was written to the generation that knew the Jewish faith by heart, but needed to see Jesus in all his glory and radical saving nature. So one of the things that the writer to the Jewish people does it present Jesus as greater than everything, well almost everything, they thought they knew and understood. Here is a list of what this book says Jesus is greater than…
Jesus is greater than the Angels
Jesus is a better Moses
Jesus is a better Joshua
Jesus is a better Sabbath
Jesus is a better High Priest
Jesus is a better Melchizedek
Jesus is a better covenant
Jesus is a better tabernacle
Jesus is a better sacrifice
Jesus has a better Father
Jesus is a better Abel, Enoch, Noah…and the rest of chapter 11
Jesus has a better kingdom