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Entries in Satan (5)

Tuesday
May212019

The Authority of Jesus

Mark 3:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 19, 2019.

Today, we are back in the Gospel of Mark.  We will be talking about the authority of Jesus. 

After the Resurrection, Jesus told his disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him.  Thus, he was sending them out to proclaim who he was and what he had done.  They were to disciple those who believed in Jesus.  When you bring the Gospel into someone’s life and teach them to follow Jesus, you are operating under the authority of One who is greater than the Washington State Legislature, or the United States Congress, or the United Nations Security Council.  You are operating under the authority of Jesus, who is the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords.

However, this does not mean that we should be arrogant, and neither does it mean that we should be fearful and timid.  May the Spirit of Christ rise up within us and enable us to rise up in the face of the spirit of this world.  May we be bold enough to lead people to Jesus.

Jesus appoints The Twelve Apostles

Though Jesus has already called the twelve disciples to follow him, here we have an actual appointment to a position that these men didn’t understand completely, at the time.  They are not just to be his disciples (a word that focuses on being students of Jesus), but also to be his apostles (we will talk more about this word in a bit).

Verse 14 in the King James Version and in the New King James Version do not have the added phrase “whom he also named apostles.”  This is due to the fact that many more manuscripts and many older manuscripts have been discovered since the creation of the KJV in the early 1600’s.  Modern translators have had to weigh the evidence of the many manuscripts that currently exist and make choices of what was in the original.  In case you think this is unacceptable, you may be interested to know that the translators of the King James Version testified that they had done this very thing themselves.  They did their best with the manuscripts they had at the time.  This is why most modern versions have added the phrase “whom he also named apostles.”  It is interesting that sometimes it goes the other way, a phrase is believed to have been added later and is thus removed by newer versions.  Either way, we want to have what was written originally, no more and no less.  Thankfully, none of these questionable phrases or words affect any doctrinal positions of the Bible.  Even if the word “apostle” should not be connected to this passage (even though the evidence seems to point in the other direction), Mark will undisputedly use the word apostles of these guys in chapter 6.  This is also backed up by multitudes of other passages throughout the New Testament.  The 12 Disciples were also called to become the 12 Apostles.

Before we look at the names that are listed, we should note that it says that these men are those that Jesus wanted.  We should not rush by that statement.  It is his choice; and when you analyze his choices, you find them to be revealing.  None of these men are professionally trained in the Scriptures.  They are also mostly lower class (although Matthew does represent the wealthy).  Even in Matthew’s case, his wealth is attained through taxation and therefore makes him an outcast to his people.  They all are from a rural area of Israel, and all from Galilee except for Judas Iscariot.  He is the only man from Judah picked and his name is also the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah.  Still he is “Iscariot.”  This is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Ish Kerioth, or man of Kerioth (a rural town in Judah).  When you connect all of this to the New Testament theme that Jesus calls those who are not always the greatest and wisest of this world, you begin to get the picture.  The greatest and wisest of this world are often so full of themselves that there is no room for God.  Also, God purposefully operates in a way that the simplest among us can understand and come to Him for salvation (not to say that The Twelve were simple-minded).  This is counter to the operations of the great in our world today.  Those who wish to create great organizations look for the brightest stars to work for them, but Jesus calls those who are not the brightest stars.

So, what is an Apostle anyways?  In the vernacular of the day, they would be official representatives of Jesus, at least when he is not available.  They would be his “sent ones.”  The main purpose of this appointment would be evident after the ascension of Jesus.  The text tells us that these apostles would be with Jesus (everywhere he went).  Thus, they would be eye-witnesses of all the miracles that he did and the teachings that he delivered.  They would also be eye-witnesses of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  They would represent a solid foundational witness that would stand the test of time.  In this sense there are no apostles today.  We operate on the foundation built by Jesus and his apostles, once and for all, in the first century.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is a better place where the Apostle Paul takes time to describe and explain the appointing of the apostles.  They were those who were eye-witnesses of the post-resurrection appearances and had been given the Gospel directly from Jesus.  In fact, Hebrews 3:1 tells us that Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our faith.  Just as the father sent Jesus to the world, so Jesus was sending his apostles to continue his work to the ends of the earth.

Now, I know that there is a lot of controversy in the Church today over whether or not there are still apostles today, and in what sense.  There is a good article online at the Assemblies of God website: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Position-Papers/Apostles-and-Prophets.  This should walk you through all of the pertinent issues and is well-balanced.

Mark emphasizes their closeness to Jesus (as opposed to the many other disciples who did not travel everywhere with Jesus).  These guys would have the most time with Jesus compared to anyone else.  He would explain things to them that he may not have explained to the crowds.  This would enable them to accurately preach, or proclaim, what Jesus wanted them to teach.  The Kingdom of Heaven was here, and whosoever will could join and become a part of it.  Always remember that proclaiming the truth for Jesus begins with first spending time with him, through his Word and spiritually in prayer.

They were also going to be given power to heal and cast out demons.  This demonstrates the power of Christ in regards to physical matters and spiritual matters.  They would truly operate under and in his authority.  This would be especially important as the Gospel was taken to the nations.  These nations represented the territory of the spiritual enemies of Christ and his people.  The apostles were the tip of the spear of Christ’s invasion of the spiritual kingdom that Satan had amassed over the years. 

So just who were these guys?  The apostle Peter is actually named Simon and Jesus has given him the nickname Peter, which means rock.  Yes, Peter may have been the original Rocky!  Jesus also gave nicknames to the two sons of Zebedee, James and John.  They are called the Sons of Thunder.  Boanerges is a Greek spelling of an Aramaic compound word.  We can also notice that there is another James in the list, the son of Alphaeus.  He is sometimes called James the Lesser.  There is another Simon who is a Cananite.  This is not a reference to Canaan (notice the two a’s in a row).  It was a word that was used of a group of Zealots who resisted and plotted against Rome.  Lastly, we have the infamous Judas Iscariot.  He would be the one who would betray Jesus and then go on to commit suicide.  He is replaced in Acts 1 by Matthias.  Yes, Jesus knew very well that he had chosen a guy who would one day betray him, but that was part of the plan.

Challenges to his authority occurred

Jesus had far more authority than people could really accept.  He literally is the One who had given the Law and had brought Israel into the Land of Canaan, but that is another story.  So in these verses, we see several challenges to what Jesus was doing.

First, there is a challenge mentioned from his own family (this is what is meant by “his own people.”)  It could mean those who are from his clan, but most likely meant his immediate family.  The question here is that they think Jesus is out of his mind.  Perhaps it was the continual traveling around causing disruption with great crowds of people.  Perhaps it was the way in which he didn’t fit in with the religious establishment.  We don’t know exactly what bothered them, except the fact that they don’t understand and spiritually are not in the right place. 

Let that be a lesson to us.  Sometimes those closest to us can resist the work of God in our life the most.  This is not always true, but it often can be.  Don’t be that type of person that holds people back from what God is doing, out of your own fears.  Make sure that you are following God and then you will be in a good position to help others to do so.  Yet, even then, remember that you are not God.  Leave room for the Holy Spirit to operate in the lives of your loved ones. 

Now, recognize that this passage is not supporting crazy actions.  Jesus was not climbing up on top of the temple and casting himself to the ground.  Rather, it is showing that what Jesus was doing was far outside the normal, and thus, it was hard to accept for many, including his own family.

The second attack on his authority in this passage is from the scribes who are experts in The Law.  They come down from the big city and proclaim that these country bumpkins are being taken in by a charlatan.  They claim that Jesus is able to cast out demons because he is in league with Beellzebub, which was an Aramaic term for the “Lord of the flies,” (aka, the lord of the demons).

However, Jesus sets the record straight.  He first points out that Satan is not going to cast himself out (that is cast out demons who are there doing his bidding and extending his kingdom).  Clearly, Jesus sees Satan as the head honcho of an evil, spiritual kingdom that had been set up on this earth.  No general or king gives up their territory of authority without it being taken from them in some way, which leads to the next point.

Jesus makes it clear that he is casting out demons because he has first “bound the strong man.”  He has somehow put Satan in bonds and thus can go out and mop up his territory at will.  So, what does Jesus mean by binding Satan?

Revelation 20 speaks of a time when Satan will be captured and bound in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years.  He is then going to be released for a short time before he is recaptured and thrown into the Lake of Fire, never to return again.  Of course, Jesus cannot be talking about this actual removal of Satan from earth because the apostles later warn believers to be aware of Satan and his tactics, i.e. he is not bound up yet.  1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  So, we can call this the ultimate binding of Satan and it is not what Jesus means.

The binding is in his own life.  The gospels all point out that the first thing Jesus does in his ministry is to go into the wilderness, where he is tempted by the devil.  Jesus thwarts Satan’s every attempt to bring him under his control.  That is why Jesus later says in John 14:30 that the ruler of this world is coming, but “he has nothing in me.”  So, Jesus has bound Satan in his own life by countering each temptation and spiritual attack.  Notice that most people are possessed by a demon.  However, if we are to set other people free from the bonds of sin that Satan has used to bind them, t hen we must first bind Satan’s work in our own life.  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit and looking to Jesus Christ that we can overcome the enemy and then plunder his kingdom.

So, as we close this morning, just remember that Christ calls all of his believers to be learners or students of his word.  He also calls us to pick up the work that the apostles began and go to the world with the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  He is God’s answer for the problem of sin in this world.  Put your faith in him today.

Authority of Jesus audio

Tuesday
Oct022018

Your Personal End Times: After the Resurrection

Revelation 20:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 30, 2018.

Last week we established that at Christ’s Second Coming believers will either be resurrected, or they will simply return with Him having been resurrected earlier (pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath).  For many reasons I lean towards the view that sees the resurrection happening prior to the tribulation.  However, it has been humorously pointed out by others that perhaps the best view is those who are “pan-trib,” that is who believe that it will all pan out in the end.  Our salvation has nothing to do with our ability to completely understand the timing of these events, and therefore, we should be very careful to avoid being overly dogmatic about our opinions in this matter.

Today we will pick up after the point that Christ has had the Beast and the False Prophet thrown into the Lake of Fire.  Also the kings of the earth and their armies have been destroyed by Christ and His armies.  Remember, they had been gathered together to try and thwart the coming of Christ.  We will continue to follow the Apostle John’s narrative in chapter 20 of the book of The Revelation.

However, before we do, let me say a word concerning how we interpret Revelation.  Even though Revelation has symbolism in it, I still believe it is intended to have a literal meaning.  What I mean by this is that we should take its words at face value.  If they point to symbolism then we take it symbolically, and if they don’t then we don’t.   Of course it is easy to want to take everything as symbolism.  I think Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries says it best.  He was a regular on the Christian Research Institute’s “Bible Answer Man” program while Dr. Walter Martin ran it.  He says, “My policy is that when the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense, lest you end up in nonsense.”  If we make everything a symbol (even allegory) and nothing is taken at face value, then there is no end to the imaginary interpretations that we can come up with and torture the text to agree with them.  Thus we look for clues and direction from the text whether something is symbolic or literal.

Satan is bound in the bottomless pit

As chapter 20 opens we find the familiar Satan being chained in the bottomless pit.  Some try to interpret this as something that happened in the past and that the events of chapter 20 only describe the Church Age.  However, it stretches the imagination to believe that the Second Coming of Jesus and the jailing of Satan is only a symbol for something that happened in the first century.  It has been stated that if Satan has been in prison over the last 2,000 years then “His chain is too long.”  Yet, this view does not make sense in light of Scripture.  Believers are cautioned against an unchained enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Thus Revelation 20 gives us the assurance that once Jesus physically returns to earth, Satan will be imprisoned in what John calls the Bottomless Pit.  This is most likely synonymous with Tartarus of Peter’s letter (2 Peter 2:4-6).  Though we have not studied through Revelation in this series, Revelation 9 and 11 both state that the Beast rises up out of the Bottomless Pit.  Now whether that means the Beast is a manifesting, fallen angel, or that a spirit that comes out of the Bottomless Pit will inhabit a willing human, it seems to be the place in which God imprisons spirit beings.  It is also interesting to note the irony that Satan tried to hold Christ prisoner in the grave.  Now the tables are turned.

In Revelation 12:9 and here in verse 2 several things are tied together.  The serpent of old is a reference to the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t just a snake that tricked Eve.  It really was an inter-dimensional being from among the Sons of God who was speaking to her that day.  Satan is also called the dragon, which connects with serpent and dragon passages of the prophetic books in the Old Testament.  The serpent-dragon-sea creature is an image of evil that goes back to the beginning of mankind and points to this being, Satan or the devil.

We are told that the purpose of this imprisonment is so that he will no lo longer be able to deceive the nations while Christ is physically ruling over the nations of the earth.  Scripture does indict mankind for its rebellion and sin.  However, it also points out that man’s sin has been made worse through the spiritual interference of Satan and his angels.  We really are being played and spurred on by supernatural forces.  This is seen in the Garden of Eden where Satan himself tempts Eve to rebel against God.  In Genesis 6 we again see the spiritual interference as the Sons of God (a class of spirit beings) come down to mankind and lead them in wickedness.  After the flood we are once again confronted with spiritual interference as God judges the Tower of Babel project and rejects the nations.  Deuteronomy 32:8 and Psalm 82, make it clear that the spiritual powers who were supposed to help mankind, forsook their proper duty and encouraged mankind in wickedness.  The New Testament often refers to the powers of the air and the prince of this world as spiritual forces.  What a groan of relief will come from the collective mouth of mankind as Satan and his spiritual forces are removed from the earth.  It is hard to conceive of what that will be like since it is all we have ever known.

Next we are told that he is bound for 1,000 years and then he will be released for a little while.  We will come back to that later.  Now in the Old Testament many passages speak of the Messiah’s reign over all the earth and how it will be a time of peace.  Passages like Zechariah 14, Isaiah 11, and Isaiah 65 are just a few.  However, none of them give a length for it.  In fact, we could say that even in Revelation it doesn’t end after 1,000 years.  Rather, it goes into a new stage.  It is here that it is twice stated that there will be a period of 1,000 years in which Satan is bound and Christ rules.  This is where we get the term “Millennium” for the time of Christ’s earthly rule.  It means one thousand years.  Some try to make this a symbolic number by saying that it only means a long period of time.  But 1,000 years makes complete sense and there is nothing in the text that requires us to make it symbolic.  Most nations or empires last hundreds of years.  Thus the Messiah’s rule lasting a thousand is most likely literal and points to his wisdom and power.  It is even more insulting to the intelligence of the average person to say that we are in this period right now.  We are not in the Millennium and the earthly rule of Christ has not yet begun, regardless of those who say it is symbolically occurring right now.

Jesus reigns with his saints in the millennium

Starting in verse 4 we turn away from Satan and towards the governance.  It is interesting that we are not given much description of life during the 1,000 years.  We are only told about its setting up and its ending.  However, the Old Testament passages that point to Messiah’s reign do give us a flavor of what it will be like.

We are told that thrones are set up and “they sat upon them.”  The “they” does not have a clear antecedent, but I believe it points back to Christ and His holy ones, or saints.  We are told that we will be in charge of judging angels in 1 Corinthians 6:3.  Thus the beginning of this period will no doubt include the judgment of those angels who have worked with Satan to abuse mankind, and also would include the judgments of Matthew 25 where the nations are judged and separated into the sheep and the goats.

Verse 4 also directly references that the souls of those beheaded during the Beast’s horrible, but short, reign will live and reign with Christ.  Some people think that this must be when the resurrection happens.  However, it doesn’t actually say it happens at that time.  And, even if it does, it doesn’t preclude an earlier resurrection.  I think the point is the same as that in 1 Thessalonians 4.  It is easy to fear that those who are killed or die before Christ’s coming will somehow miss out.  Here our minds are set at ease that even those who were dying in those last years will be able to reign in the millennium.

In verse 5 we are told that this is the First Resurrection.  Now this must mean something more than just first in sequence because Jesus was the first to be resurrected and this happened many years before the events of Revelation 20 (John clearly knew this).  In Matthew 27:52-53 we are also told that some of the Old Testament saints were resurrected at the same time as Jesus and even went into the city and “appeared to many.”  In Revelation 11, we also have the resurrection of the two witnesses who even ascend into heaven.  We have also talked about the clear possibility that there is a wholesale gathering together of believers in immortal form in heaven.  Thus in relation to Revelation 20, this is the first resurrection (Note: that the second resurrection is in verses 12-13 and involves the wicked dead being brought before God for judgment).  However, in relation to the previous resurrection it is of the same kind.  Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  The First Resurrection is the Resurrection of the righteous and there is an order and timing to it that involves at least two events (the firstfruits and the gathering) and perhaps more.  The First Resurrection is a class of resurrection in which those who belong to Christ are raised up in the order that God has decreed.

Some seem to get the idea that only saints who are killed in the tribulation get to participate in the millennium, but this is not what John is trying to say.  Rather, he is emphasizing that they will not miss out.  They too will be resurrected and participate in this millennial kingdom.  As it says, the saints will be priests who reign with Christ throughout this 1,000 years.

The final rebellion occurs

Verse 7 begins another transition in the text.  We now jump to the end of the 1,000 years and Satan is released from his prison in the Bottomless Pit.  Of course, as if on cue, he immediately begins to deceive the nations.  I would assume some time elapses here.  However, it seems that he is able to gather an army that surrounds the capital city of Jesus and the saints.  This is presumably Jerusalem, though it is not named in the passage.  There is not much fan fare.  Rather, John describes a fire coming down from God out of heaven to destroy the army (verse 9)  Because verse 11 has the earth and the heavens fleeing away from the presence of God and the emergence of a New Heaven and a New earth, some connect this fire from God with 2 Peter 3.  This seems to be a cosmic melt down in which the elements completely dissolve.  This creation is doomed to be consumed by a fiery conflagration.  Of course such a fire is not a problem for those who are immortal. 

Lastly in verse 10 we are told that the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire where he is to be tormented night and day forever.  Finally the arch-deceiver will come to an end as God separates him from all of creation and especially the creation which is to follow this event.

As we bring our time today to a close, it is good to ask ourselves why God would allow Satan another shot.  Why not throw him in the Lake of Fire to begin with?  There seems to be a point that God is making with the millennium and the final rebellion.  Even when God steps in forcefully, removes evil, and enforces good, many people will still choose evil.  Man is not basically good, and neither is his evil only from his environment.  No we are capable of choosing evil even when we have enjoyed the good life and perfect peace.  So check your heart today.  Where are you spiritually?  Don’t let the devil and his lies deceive you into thinking that God is something to be cast aside or attacked.  In the end God’s plan will happen.  The only question is where you will fit in that equation.  Choose life!

After the Resurrection Audio

Tuesday
Aug092016

A Song of Salvation II

Isaiah 26:16-21; 27:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 7, 2016.

As this song of chapter 26 comes to a close, it focuses on a problem that is universal for people who put their trust in God.  People who trust God live with great promises that are future within a context that often seems like those promises will never come true.  Countless millions have died waiting for the complete promises of God.  Yet, God has incorporated this into His plan.  His people must simply wait for His deliverance and the time of jubilation that will follow, even in death.  This sets up the key idea that this life is not all there is.  There will come a day when all the Righteous of all times will be resurrected and see the completion of God’s promises together.  Thus, we will all experience this jubilation as a family of the Redeemed at the same time.

At the same time, this life is still incredibly important.  It is the testing ground of where we will stand in the day to come.  Will I be swept away by judgment, or will I be singing with the Righteous after the judgment has gone by?  The Resurrection is God’s plan to set everything on its head and then set all things in order.

The Dependency of the Righteous

Verse 16 continues the theme of how the righteous are dependent upon God.  In verse 13 Isaiah had mentioned that other masters had ruled over Israel.  We pointed out then that this was God’s discipline for their disobedience.  Here in verse 16 the theme of discipline is picked up again.  In the midst of “trouble” (their discipline) they turned towards the Lord in prayer.  The word “visited” here is interesting because normally the Scriptures talk about God visiting us.  Sometimes He visits in the sense He is showing up to help us (like Israel being delivered from Egypt).  Other times, He visits in the sense of bringing discipline.  You could say that though God had visited them in discipline, they were visiting God with prayers of mercy.  It is easy to get angry and retreat from God in the times of our discipline.  But that will not lead to healing and deliverance.  We need delivered from our sins and God’s discipline is intended to point us in His direction.  Thus the righteous humble themselves and seek God even in times of discipline.  They know that they are completely dependent upon Him.

Verse 17 compares their times of “chastening” to labor pains.  Israel felt like all their labor pains had been for nothing and had accomplished nothing.  In a way this is true.  If it was only up to Israel (or us for that matter) nothing would be accomplished.  But God always intervenes and does through us what we cannot do on our own, if we will trust Him.  Israel had been through many times of not trusting God, being disciplined, repenting, and turning back to God.  This cycle seemed to never end.  Imagine a woman going through 9 months of pregnancy, a day or more of labor, and then the doctor says, “I’m sorry ma’am but there isn’t a baby.  You’ve just given birth to wind.”  That is the feeling Isaiah is describing into verse 18.  In our attempts at God’s things we are unable to produce any deliverance in the earth without God.  Also, the “earth dwellers” are still ruling over the earth.  Remember they are those who live without thought for God. 

The thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this is that we are not alone.  God is with us and He is also for us.  Even when it looks like the enemy has completely won, God has promised to stand up on our behalf.  The New Testament connects this idea of labor pains to how the earth will be in the Last Days leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  Things will become increasingly painful and the pains will come faster and faster.  This may make us feel like serving God is for nothing.  But that is not true.  God has not abandoned us.  How can we know this?

Verse 19 is the answer.  All of this emotion and fear will be overturned by the Resurrection.  Those who have perished without seeing God’s ultimate deliverance will be resurrected.  Also, that resurrection is not just a spiritual thing; it is a physical thing (“with my dead body”).  You can read “my dead body” as referring to Isaiah, which would be true.  Isaiah could be saying that they should take comfort because they will all be resurrected.  However, all prophets speak what God tells them to speak.  Thus the “my dead body” could be a reference to God Himself.  This would be pointing forward to a time when God Himself would take on human flesh and die, only to be resurrected.  So this could be a reference to what Jesus would later do.  He told us that He was the resurrection and the life.  Ultimately the resurrection of Jesus gives us the proof of this coming reality and strengthens our faith so that we will never give up even in the face of death.

The phrase “you who dwell in the dust” refers to those who are in the grave.  Just as a physical grave is made in the dry ground, the Hebrews pictured the spiritual side of the grave as a dry and dusty place.  So we have a poetic picture of the resurrection.  The dead will awaken out of a dry and dusty place to sing in the midst of the dew of a new morning.  He is basically saying you were dead and your bones were dry.  But you will rise with green bones and sing to the Lord.  Thus the earth will cast out the dead.  Daniel 12 also points to this by saying, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  All has been recorded in the earth, none will be lost.

The Promise of the Lord to the Righteous

Verse 20 picks up the idea of the resurrection and gives an instruction and a promise to God’s people.  First there is the call to enter your chambers.  In the context this must be referring to the death that they fear will rob them of victory.  God is in a sense saying, “Don’t see death as a failure.  Rather, see it as a time of rest and peace from the struggle.  Let Me rise up and struggle for you.”  Of course this is not an excuse for suicide.  At the proper time, we will all come to the end of our life.  We need to be faithful to God in how we live this life.  But when the day of death comes, we can enter into it with peace instead of fear.  Is it true that death can actually be a “grace” to the believer?  Yes.  First, death keeps us from living forever in bodies that have been damaged by sin (both ours and others).  Second, death gives us rest from the oppression of a world bent on rebellion (imagine how Adam would feel if he were still alive).  Third, death was designed to be overcome by God.  It is only a temporary condition of a person.  Of course the resurrection is connected to the Rapture in the New Testament because when the dead are raised there will still be some believers alive.  They too will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into glorified bodies and caught up to be at the Lord’s side.  So death is the refuge of the righteous until the day of deliverance.

Notice the phrase “the indignation.”  This is another way of referring to the Wrath of God.  Verse 21 makes it clear that there will be a final day of judgment for the whole earth.  God Himself will come out of the heavens and judge the earth.  In the New Testament it is revealed that this is Jesus.  Yes, Jesus loves us and died for us.  But He will also come back to judge those who have rejected His offer of grace and mercy.  The wrath of God will be poured out on all the earth.  Thus the righteous are protected not just from the wicked, but also from the wrath of God.  It says that God will “punish the earth dwellers for their iniquity.”  The word “punish” is the idea of settling accounts.  It reminds me of King Belshazzar in Daniel 5.  He is in the middle of throwing a party and using the holy cups and bowls from the Jerusalem Temple.  God tells Him, “You have been weighed in the balances and found lacking.  Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”  Thus God will remove the kings and the armies of the earth.  They are lacking in any ability to support godliness and righteousness on the earth.  Their kingdoms will be taken away and given to the Righteous.

The last phrase is that the Earth will disclose her blood and will no more cover her slain.  We are told in the book of Revelation that the raising of the righteous will happen before Christ comes back (or at the same time.  It isn’t quite clear).  After 1,000 years of reigning with Jesus on this earth, the wicked dead will be raised up for a final judgment.  At this point God will create a new heavens and a new earth where no wickedness will ever be.  This is God’s promise to those who put their trust in Him.

I believe that the first verse of chapter 27 should really go with this chapter.  Regardless, let’s finish with looking at that verse.  We are told that the ancient serpent, Satan, will be slain.  He is called Leviathan because this is a sea creature the ancients were familiar with.  In fact many of the religions had mythologies about a sea creature that ruled the seas.  Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 tell us that the ancient serpent that the Bible references is in fact the Devil or Satan.  He is pictured as being in the sea because the sea was a metaphor for all the peoples of the earth (thrashing and tossing to and fro).  Satan has ruled the seas of mankind like a great sea serpent throughout history.  But God will come down and slay Him.  Though he is an immortal being, he will be slain as if he were mortal.  But the righteous that are mortal, will be raised up with immortal bodies.  This is the ultimate victory that God has planned for us all.  So let’s trust in God.  He will slay our enemy and redeem us from our own frailty because He loves us.

Song Salvation Audio

Friday
Feb192016

Jesus Warns His Disciples

Although the disciples are arguing over which of them should be considered the greatest, in truth they are all about to do something quite the opposite of greatness.  They are about to fail in their trust of Jesus.  Yes, they had successfully followed Jesus so far.  However, in the next 24 hours they would flee from Jesus and hide, broken and fearful.  It is this universal rejection of Jesus by enemies and friends that ought to help us understand why the Lord does not accept good works, but instead will only accept faith.  He is not looking for those who are “great” neither as the world defines it nor as his followers define it.  Instead he is looking for those who will believe in his greatness regardless of the circumstances and to the end of their life.  Even this, the disciples all fail.  Yet, the Lord isn’t looking for a faith that has never fallen, but one that has been through storms, ups and downs, and yet returns to him.  The Lord is warning us in this passage to quit looking at our greatness and pay attention to the battle that is waging all around us.

Satan Has Asked To Test Them

In the next 24 hours Jesus will be arrested, run through a bogus trial, and publicly executed.  Jesus knows this and is speaking in order to prepare them for their own failures.  The disciples do not understand the gravity of what is happening, but the Lord does.  It is here that we need to remind ourselves that our strength is not in what we are, but in what the Lord is building in us.  We need to remind ourselves that even in our failures (perhaps especially so) the Lord is building up our faith in him.  Satan is moving to attack Jesus and destroy all that he is trying to do.  Yet, notice that Jesus reveals that Satan has asked to do this.  Who is he asking?  Although Jesus doesn’t say, it is apparent he means the Father.  Satan must ask permission to test God’s people.  This is revealed in the first two chapters of the book of Job.  Why would God allow such tests?  He does so to prove that our faith is genuine.  So what about the times people fail?  Even this can take a faith that is either disingenuous or weak and help it to be rebuilt on a proper foundation.  No matter how difficult we are tested, we are not at the mercy of the Devil.  If God is allowing you to go through a trial, He will bring you out the other side, and there is a way for you to be stronger.  It is in letting go of you and clinging to him through faith.

Satan has asked to sift them like wheat.  This metaphor is used to picture the process of testing their faith.  When wheat is sifted it is first beat and pounded in order to break apart the hard shell that surrounds it.  This chaff is then removed in one way or another.  Here a mesh of sorts would be used that would allow the small pieces of chaff to fall through, but the good wheat would stay on top.  Humans sift wheat in order to make its cooking and eating a better experience.  However, the Devil has a different purpose in mind.

He intends to prove that they are nothing but chaff.  He is going to pound and beat their faith through the circumstances ahead and he believes that they will all turn out like Judas.  He is going to keep at it until he wins or you die.  We see this in the book of Job.  After failing to get Job to quit trusting God, Satan complains that Job is only serving God because God has protected him physically.  “Skin for skin,” Satan accusingly says to God.  He goes on to declare, “But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  He hates faith.  He wants nothing to be left for the Lord at the end of this testing.  He comes for nothing but to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.  This warning is not just for Job or Peter and the disciples.  It is for all who will try to follow Jesus.  If Satan thinks there is a chance that you have true faith in Jesus, He is going to come after you one way or another to try and destroy it.  “Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV).  You do have chaff in your life.  But, you are not all chaff.  The Lord will bring you through all your times of testing and reward your faithfulness, if you keep turning back to him.

Jesus Has Prayed To Help Their Faith

Jesus has told Peter that Satan has asked to test them all.  But then Jesus tells Peter what he has asked for them.  As opposed to Satan, Jesus is not asking the Father to test us.  Instead, he is asking in prayer for our souls to endure all the tests that Satan brings our way.  He is asking that we will not fail even though we may have times of falling.

In this passage Jesus specifically tells Peter that he has prayed for him.  However, in John 17:9-11 we see that Jesus has and will pray for all of his disciples, including us.  Yet, here he zeros in on Peter.  Why?  Most likely because Peter has been the most vociferous in defending his own greatness.  Let me emphasize that this is speculation.  But, one cannot avoid the clear rebuke that is given to all the disciples, but especially to Peter.  Yes, Satan has asked for Peter by name so that he can test him.  But, Jesus has prayed for Peter by name.  We may not have Satan personally trying to test us (remember he is not omnipresent).  However, we do have evil spirits that are in league with him and do his bidding.    More than this, Jesus Christ is able to pray for every single one of His disciples, even now interceding on your behalf before the Father.  He is praying for your faith to endure.  As it says in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Clearly Peter’s faith is going to fail, but it will be for only a short time.  Jesus is not praying that our faith will be an invincible, superman-like faith that never even blinks.  I am not saying that Jesus could care less if we fail.  Yet, he knows that we will all have our times of doubt and fear in this flesh.  In fact, it will be in his failure that Peter learns to trust in the power of God rather than in the power of Peter.  We cannot give mere lip service to this.  We are made stronger when we listen to the words of Jesus and repel the attacks on our faith.  However, we are also made stronger when after failure, we humbly cast ourselves on the mercy of the Lord.  Jesus lets Peter know he will fail.  But then gives him the task of strengthening his brothers when he returns (back in faith).  Jesus know that Peter will return and even has a job for him.  The word “return” is connected to repentance and conversion.  Peter will turn from the Lord out of doubt during the crucifixion.  But he will also return to him in faith after the resurrection.  His brothers are going to go through the same tragic failure.  They will need to encourage each other.  Not make comparisons among them in order to determine who is greatest.  We need to help each other overcome the world by strengthening each other’s faith in Jesus.  Our times of failing the Lord and returning to him can be helpful to others.  Do not hide your failures in shame.  Rather, boldly declare to others that the Lord brought you through your failures.  Peter’s pride still resists what Jesus is trying to teach us all, and most likely so does mine.

Verses 33-34, puts the period on this lesson.  Peter tries one last attempt to declare how great his faith is.  Perhaps here we see why Jesus focuses on Peter.  His flesh is truly great.  But it is not that kind of greatness Jesus is seeking.  Peter has to quit clinging to the greatness that he wants to see in himself, and surrender to the greatness that the Lord wants to make in him.  None of the disciples wanted to follow a messiah who was going to be crucified.  They did not want to be the inner circle of a messiah who left the earth.  They did not want to be men who would travel the world teaching people to believe in a crucified Lord.  But this is his call.

Jesus puts the death nail in Peter’s pride by declaring that he will deny Christ within the next few hours.  Reality versus fantasy.  Perhaps you too cling to a fantasy that somehow you are different.  Let it go.  Hear the warning of the Lord.  Today the Gospel is being tested in our society and Jesus along with it.  Our Lord and His way of living is being crucified publicly by our culture and many others around the world.  Some are falling away from the Lord.  Others retreat from the real Jesus and create a fake Jesus so that they can feel strong in their faith.  However, our strength is not in our inability to fall.  Our strength is in the mercy and grace of our Lord.  We can repent and turn to him and he will receive us.  This is the type of Lord that we serve, and this is what we must hold out to a lost and dying world.

Jesus Warns His Disciples audio