What more could you ask for? On the drive home this afternoon—as I picked up mail, this view was grabbing my attention. So I snapped a quick shot.
What more could you ask for? On the drive home this afternoon—as I picked up mail, this view was grabbing my attention. So I snapped a quick shot.
Now, Not Yet
This section ends the introductory topics to understanding the Bible and specifically the framework of the Biblical message. As with the last several topics, this is directly pertinent to the study of the end times and specifically Revelation.
When we look at the issue of salvation we have discovered several “time” aspects of it already.
Past (for all)
Salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago (1 John 2:2)
namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19 NAS)
Past (for the individual person)
Salvation delivered to us through God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 10:17, etc.) and Baptism (1 Peter 3:21, etc.).
Present (for the individual Christian)
Salvation delivered to us through God’s Word (2 Peter 3:18, etc.), Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-27), Absolution (Matthew 18:15-20; Ephesians 4:32, etc.).
Ephesians 2:8 offers the above two aspects of salvation for the person. The verb (ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι) is in the perfect tense: something accomplished in the past is still effective in the present. Note how NAS and HCSB cover both notions in their translations:
NAS: For by grace you have been saved through faith (past tense)
HCSB: For you are saved by grace through faith (present tense)
But now we look to the future aspect of salvation. We can look at several passages, but here are just a couple.
[Jesus said:] “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels, with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 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. (Matthew 25:31-34 HCSB)
Notice that Jesus mentions that on the last day we gain the inheritance that has been promised for those who believe in Him. There is something ahead, the promise of heaven and all that God desires. This is the future aspect of our salvation.
Hence, we live in a “now, not yet” existence. Are we saved? Yes! Have we received everything that Christ has obtained? Not yet.
How do we as Christians live and grow in this “now, not yet” life? God has given us His Word and the Lord’s Supper for that growth.
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; (John 8:31 NAS)
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 NAS)
Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi concerning the end, “holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ…” (Philippians 2:16)
In the New Testament the Greek word “covenant” also can be translated as “testament” or even in some contexts “last will and testament.” In legal terms, a testator is a person who has written and executed a last will and testament that is in effect at the time of the person’s death. Thus, Jesus institutes his last will and testament, which becomes effective when the Jesus dies.
for this is My blood of the (last will and) testament, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28 NAS)
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new (last will and) testament in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
…more to come in part B
The full title is actually: Theology of Glory vs. Theology of the Cross. But that is long for a blog post title.
These two approaches to life (and theology) meet us head-on every day. The theology of glory vs. the theology of the Cross can be confusing. All Christians believe in the glory of heaven—that is not the issue here. Rather, the problem comes when someone tries to impose that future glory into the present realm through our own efforts. You will hear statements such as, “It is God’s intention that you be rich.” (Note: from my perspective, that seems fitting in light of my first name!)
Such a claim shows the theology of glory has imposed itself into this current life. The reality under the cross is that we should expect persecution, suffering, and even death. Living in this world as Christians means life under the cross of Christ.
[Jesus said:] “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NAS)
[Jesus said:] “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NAS)
Notice that these realities have present consequences. And Paul wrote much about the present world in which we live and the suffering and persecution of this life.
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:29-30 NAS)
God’s desire for humans is that they receive all his gifts, especially his righteousness; this righteousness is called passive righteousness, entirely God’s work and gift to us. But sin skews all that. Humans want to do, achieve, control their lives and their destiny. In order to do that humans construct their own theology in which their works contribute to salvation or are the basis of salvation.
Robert Kolb and Charles Arand wrote about it this way:
They find that putting their faith in the promises of God alone is too unsatisfying and too risky. It is like putting all their eggs in one basket. This is not to say that God cannot be involved or a part of the picture. But we want to minimize the risk, and so we want to keep one hand on the wheel, or have a backup system in place; to be a part of a cooperative partnership where we rely partly on God and partly on ourselves. This would allow us to exercise a certain amount of control over our own destiny. Luther called these attempts “theologies of glory,” in which human deeds elicit and thus predict (at least in part) God’s deeds. (The Genius of Luther’s Theology, CPH, 2008, pp. 80-1)
Common to all theologies of glory is the role humans play in assisting God to “make things work out right in this life.” Thus, a key component of these theologies is to try to impose all the future glory of heaven into the present world. You might hear statements such as:
Christians should never be sick!
If you just give to the Lord he will blessing you in far greater riches (in this life)!
Real Christians are always successful!
And the list could go on. As Kolb/Arand note the theologians of glory have to rewrite the script for the relationship between God and humans, the script for the human, and the script for human relationships with each other.
The theology of the cross looks at life realistically. That includes recognizing the devastating effects that sin has brought into the world. The theologians of the cross see life as it really is, not as they wish it to be. They call a spade a spade. They recognize that God is God, we as humans are his creations, and that calls us into a life marked by service to others.
We often do not have the answers to many questions about this: Why does God allow suffering? Why does it take so long? When will there be relief? But in the Bible we find many expressions of the theology of the cross. Take a look at the many Psalms of lament, such as Psalm 55:1-8 (HCSB).
God, listen to my prayer and do not ignore my plea for help. Pay attention to me and answer me. I am restless and in turmoil with my complaint, because of the enemy’s voice, because of the pressure of the wicked. For they bring down disaster on me and harass me in anger.
My heart shudders within me; terrors of death sweep over me. Fear and trembling grip me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “If only I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and find rest. How far away I would flee; I would stay in the wilderness. I would hurry to my shelter from the raging wind and the storm.”
The Son of God came to defeat sin (1 John 2:2), death (1 Cor. 15:26), and the devil (1 John 3:8). We live between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and his return in glory at the end of time. This life is marked by the struggles associated with each of the three enemies.
Paul had preached Christ to people in Thessalonica, but they was run out of town after a short period of time (perhaps as little as three weeks). Paul writes two letters to them concerning the Christian life and what these new believers were facing.
and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6 HCSB)
For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us; they displease God and are hostile to everyone, (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 HCSB)
Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you endure. It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 HCSB)
Paul and Peter give the theologian of the cross the proper perspective on glory, the glory that awaits all Christians in heaven.
and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:17 HCSB)
You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9 HCSB)
For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21 HCSB)
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. (1 Peter 4:12-13 HCSB)
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in your endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 HCSB)
We live under the cross in this life, not as defeated, but as sharers in the cross of Christ. God’s Word, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, and absolution all speak to our hearts words of comfort, forgiveness, renewal, and hope. That sustains us in the worst of times. For we know that “whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.”
We live realistically in light of what God’s word declares about who we are: saints-sinners, redeemed by Christ. We are not deceived by the temporary fixes of our own doing, that of a community, or that of a government. Perhaps a challenge is for us to re-read the New Testament and take note of how much is focused on the theology of the cross. I suspect that we will discover in the process how much of the theology of glory may be more American civil religion and individualism and not based on the Bible. In my interactions with Christians from other countries, I have found that this theology of glory stuff does not relate to their experiences and life, but the theology of the cross speaks to the heart. That they know and live with every day.
In a paraphrase of Paul in Romans 7
Doggone it, the things I want to do, I don’t do.
But the things I don’t want to do, I end up doing!
Does that sound like your life? It doesn’t take long for us as Christians to realize that while we live in this world we struggle with sin. Our intentions are good, but sometimes we still sin. More often than we want.
Sometimes we are tempted to think that our lives are on a scale of 100%, and that we are sinners 50% of the time and saints 50% of the time. We measure how “mature” we are by shifting the balance to the saint side.
But is that helpful? Sadly, we might become proud of our effort to shift to 70% saint. Or we might be discouraged when the sinner increases to 70%.
Even more problematic: is that how the Bible describes this saint-sinner issue? The Reformers provided us with the Latin phrase as they sought to describe the life of the believer in this issue: simul iustis et peccator (at the same time saint and sinner)
In the New Testament, “saint” (holy one) is used to describe anyone who believes in Jesus Christ (see Acts 9:13, 32). Thus, you are a saint, right now, by God’s declaration. But we still sin. And according to what Jame wrote, it is more than just a sin action, we are sinners, guilty of all.
For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all. (James 2:10)
Hence we are 100% saint but also 100% sinner.
Paul writes about this in Romans 7:14-23 (HCSB)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me.
21 So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. 22 For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. 23 But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.
Paul describes the struggle with sin. And notice from one perspective he is 100% sinner (v. 15). Even more look at the present tense of the verb about how describes himself:
This is a statement that can be trusted and deserves complete acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and I am the foremost sinner. (1 Timothy 1:15 HCSB)
At the same time he “joyfully agrees with God’s law.” That is, he is 100% saint. Paul continues:
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25 HCSB)
That describes my life, and your life as well. “My dying body” and “a slave to the law of God.” But Romans 7 is not the end of the discussion. Note the next verse, the final solution.
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 HCSB)
So, while it is frustrating to life in the tension of saint-sinner, the final word is God’s verdict: “those in Christ Jesus,” the saint. That is our hope as we life in the life. Our journey is not determined by this life with all the enemies of good (sin, Satan, death), but Jesus Christ, who conquered all of these—for us.
Paul provides that final look:
No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come,c hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:37-39 HCSB)
We often hear that we can overcome sin, and live a more perfect life. Thus, the Christian is challenged to follow a prescribed set of rules (laws) and therefore will be more holy. But Paul provides a far different picture.
19 For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20 HCSB)
Note that solution is not reforming my behavior. Instead, we are crucified with Christ. We die to sin! Self-generated works by myself will only lead to more failure, or worse, an arrogance that cannot even see how bad my situation is.
Paul continues in Galatians 5 expanding on this struggle. Specifically he shows that the Holy Spirit is about more than repairing moral weaknesses. Rather, the Holy Spirit transforms from within, changing the heart (fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23). And immediately he ties that back to the crucifying that takes place in our daily lives:
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)
If we recognize this battle within us, how does that affect our relationship with fellow Christians? Do we manifest the flesh, ready to point out their failures, and feel better ourselves? Or is there a better way? Paul answers that for us:
Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 HCSB)
As a saint-sinner, I look at how Christ has treated me, with compassion, with truth about my sin, but also with gentleness in restoring me. That is how we then treat other saint-sinner people around me.
Notice how all this crucifying, dying, rising, and the work of the Holy Spirit sets a new community in place. Instead of judgment, condemnation, gossip, backbiting, anger as the mode of operation, we live out the reality of the risen Jesus in us. As Paul wrote: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
May we live in God’s grace as saint-sinners. We hear the judgment of God’s law on our sins. But more importantly we hear from God’s Word about Jesus and what He has done, is still doing, and will do for us. We are nourished by the Lord’s Supper where we once again hear that Jesus forgives our sins. We are restored, anticipating the end of this life, and the new life, where there is no sin, no fear, no condemnation, not cancer, no conflicts, nothing but God’s perfect peace. And then we will be Saints only in the Church Triumphant.
And that is how we live in light of the end times… as saint-sinners who daily die with Christ, daily rise with Christ, and live in hope and certainty about the end and what comes after.
This past week we looked at what is called two kingdom theology. Contrary to some people this is not the separation of church and state.
God operates in this world in two distinct ways, two kingdoms. The kingdom of the left and the kingdom of the right (Church). Thus, the Christian lives in two kingdoms simultaneously. This helps clarify what is happening. But it can also lead to tension for the Christian.
This refers to the way that God works through the “state” (in historic terms, but sometimes called “government”). The kingdom of the left is based on law to maintain order. The instrument to accomplish its ruling function is the “sword” (or any weapon that will serve the same purpose).
The law in the kingdom of the left is designed to maintain order. A simple example is the speed limit on the interstate system (here in the U.S.). The speed limit is set for the overall efficiency of transportation and for the safety of all who travel. If someone exceeds the speed limit, then the consequences are not just a ticket, but possibly accidents, injuries, and death.
…realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers… (1 Timothy 1:9)
As Christians living in the kingdom of the left, we want to follow the laws because we are not rebellious or lawless.
The kingdom of the right refers to the Church (not as an institution but as the people of God). The kingdom of the right is based on the Gospel, and the tools to accomplish its mission are the Word and Sacraments (Baptism and Lord’s Supper).
It is important to remember that the outward institutions of the church in the U.S. are governed according to the laws of the state in which is the congregation is located. The reason congregations have presidents, treasurers, etc. are because the laws require such organization for running non-profit organizations. And so we have elements of the kingdom of the left within the congregation. But the essence of the congregation is to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified (Gospel: what God does for us in Jesus Christ). And the basis for such is the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
The tension for the Christian comes when living in both kingdoms. For as Christians in the kingdom of the left, we follow what Jesus said.
They asked him, “Teacher, we know that you’re right in what you say and teach. Besides, you don’t play favorites. Rather, you teach the way of God truthfully. Is it right for us to pay taxes to the emperor or not?”
He saw through their scheme, so he said to them, “Show me a coin. Whose face and name is this?”
They answered, “The emperor’s.”
He said to them, “Well, then give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and give God what belongs to God.” (Luke 20:22-25)
Paul wrote further on this:
Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn’t been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God. Therefore, whoever resists the government opposes what God has established. Those who resist will bring punishment on themselves.
People who do what is right don’t have to be afraid of the government. But people who do what is wrong should be afraid of it. Would you like to live without being afraid of the government? Do what is right, and it will praise you.
The government is God’s servant working for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid. The government has the right to carry out the death sentence. It is God’s servant, an avenger to execute God’s anger on anyone who does what is wrong.
Therefore, it is necessary for you to obey, not only because you’re afraid of God’s anger but also because of your own conscience. That is also why you pay your taxes. People in the government are God’s servants while they do the work he has given them. Pay everyone whatever you owe them. If you owe taxes, pay them. If you owe tolls, pay them. If you owe someone respect, respect that person. If you owe someone honor, honor that person. (Romans 13:1-8)
But what do we do when we face a situation where the kingdom of the left conflicts with the kingdom of the right? The early church faced such a situation:
They (the Sanhedrin ruling council) called Peter and John and ordered them never to teach about Jesus or even mention his name.
Peter and John answered them, “Decide for yourselves whether God wants people to listen to you rather than to him. We cannot stop talking about what we’ve seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)
Peter and John saw the limits of the kingdom of the left: when the kingdom of the left demanded the person in the kingdom of the right violated God’s command. In this case, proclaiming Jesus Christ.
Many more examples can be found where there is a clash between the two kingdoms. For instance, the Christians living within the sphere of the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945. How does one resist the kingdom of the left, yet still remain faithful to the exhortation of Romans 13?
Peter in his first letter helps in regard to the two kingdoms.
If you suffer, you shouldn’t suffer for being a murderer, thief, criminal, or troublemaker. If you suffer for being a Christian, don’t feel ashamed, but praise God for being called that name. The time has come for the judgment to begin, and it will begin with God’s family. If it starts with us, what will be the end for those who refuse to obey the Good News of God? If it’s hard for the person who has God’s approval to be saved, what will happen to the godless sinner? Those who suffer because that is God’s will for them must entrust themselves to a faithful creator and continue to do what is good. (1 Peter 4:15-19)
Dietrich Bonhöffer wrestled with this tension before and during the war, eventually assisting in some way with the assassination attempt on Hitler. He was arrested and eventually executed by direct order of Hitler before Hitler’s own death. Lest we think this is an easy decision made in a matter of days, Bonhöffer agonized over this decision for years.
But we face challenges in today’s world today. How do we address the issue of illegal aliens? How many of our own ancestors were illegal aliens in this country? Should Christians minister to them, even if the state prohibits such care?
Perhaps one of the biggest issues we face is to separate how the “state” operates and how the Church operates. That is, is the kingdom of the left to be used, manipulated to become an instrument of the kingdom of the right? This is critical when studying the end times. It is interesting how the Left Behind series of books reflects the kingdom of the right primarily engaged in kingdom of the left activity. Is that legitimate Biblically? Given the above, that series presents a confusion of the two kingdoms and reduces the Church to just another “state” force.
Let’s let the church be church as God intended. Proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Added reference. In my continuing study of all these topics I came across a paper written by Rev. Joshua D. Reimche (LCMS) that he presented at the North Dakota District Fall Pastors’ Conference.
Last week we covered Law and Gospel (again!). But the study was worth the time because we added two new dimensions to the discussion that affect us in our living in and studying end times.
The above diagram and numbered points refer to righteousness before God. This is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is given to believers.
Thus, this is called passive righteousness. We can do nothing to earn it, be better at it, because it is the righteousness of Christ given to us. Before God, only passive righteousness is sufficient. That is, Christ’s righteousness is perfect, meeting all the standards of God as well as satisfying the punishment that we deserved because we failed. A person cannot add anything to this righteousness.
At the same time, God has placed in this world to serve his purposes, by serving others. This is our active righteousness (before people, Latin coram mundo). This is the righteousness of the person relative to everyone else. That is, we actively serve other people and God’s creation.
Note: This active righteousness has no bearing on the passive righteousness. If we serve more fervently and more often, we cannot ”improve” our passive righteousness before God. At the same time, our passive righteousness informs, forms, guides, and motivates our active righteousness.
In effect, we are God’s mask as we serve others.
God places us in situations and roles in life where we exercise our active righteousness. Historically that is called vocation. Thus, I have vocations as son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, pastor, and so on. In each vocation I am actively serving someone, carrying out God’s desires for human/creature benefit. But none of that makes me a better person before God, because I already have the perfect righteousness of Christ, passively received through faith.
As we live in our vocations, God strengthens us in passive righteousness through His Word, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, and Absolution (notice: forgiveness of sins, strengthening of faith, restoring, renewing, etc. which are all God’s work for us and in us). That is, we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we are strengthened to serve in our active righteousness.
For living in the End Times (which we are!), the key is what Peter wrote in his second letter.
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thus, we receive (passive righteousness) and serve (active righteousness) in vocations as we wait for the return of Jesus Christ. We live not in fear, but in faith; not in scrambling for a “war,” but in service to others.
Last week we covered three terms that are interrelated and are critical for maintaining a Biblical focus: Christology, Soteriology, and Eschatology. Any time you see -logy at the end of a word, that denotes “study of” or “account of” or “words about.” So Christology refers to the “study of Christ.” Soteriology refers to “study of Soter/Soteria” or “study of Savior/salvation.” And Eschatology refers to the “study of the end.”
An early Christian attribution to Jesus Christ was:
If we use the first letter of each word, then in Greek it spells ΙΧΘΥΣ which in Greek spells out the word “fish.” This in fact is an early symbol to designate who Jesus is and what he has done.
We sometimes hear that we need to “run to the cross.” The phrase indicates an inability of the person to find a solution, so we turn to, go to, the cross. The problem is “how do we do that?”
In Exodus 20 we find this often overlooked statement but it helps us as we look to solve this question:
[Yahweh says:] in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. (Exodus 20:24 NAS)
Note that Yahweh (LORD) is setting the precedent about who determines where God is and how that happens. God himself cause his name to be remembered. It is there that the Israelites were to look, not to their own places. As time passes in the Old Testament, we discover Israel often trying to establish where God “has to be, because we have said so.” Ultimately the “high places” reveal this fundamental misunderstanding. Even Solomon struggles:
Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 3:3 NAS)
As we move into the New Testament we discover the same issue. Simeon was told he would not die until he saw the “salvation of the Lord.” We might expect that since the temple was the “traditional dwelling place” of God, that being in the temple would be sufficient. But, not, only when he saw the baby Jesus, could he exclaim, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:32 NAS). That was the place where God was causing his name to be remembered.
Later Jesus himself provides three specific instances, places where Jesus has caused his name to be remembered:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24 NAS)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 1:17)
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NAS)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 NAS)
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the (new) testament [covenant], which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new testament [covenant] in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
[Jesus said:] If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:15-20)
Notice that salvation, forgiveness of sins, etc. are given through these, and there is remembering connected with each. Jesus causes his name to be remembered in his Word, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper. And the promise of Jesus’ presence in Matthew 18:20 is often taken out of context to mean any generic presence anywhere. But in the context it is specifically connected with the pronouncing forgiveness in 15-18.
Jesus died on the cross about 2000 years ago, a once in the history of the world event. Everything that God promised is fulfilled and accomplished in Jesus Christ:
[Jesus said:] Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17 NAS)
And he did so perfectly,
We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin. (Hebrews 4:15 GW)
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4 NAS)
For Christ also died for sins once for all (1 Peter 3:18)
He is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2 GW)
How do we find the “cross”? Even as old as I am, I was not around when Jesus died on the cross. So how do I “find the cross”? Instead of my imagination, Jesus tells us in the above passages. We now connect the two pieces.
This is also noted to be “objective justification.” It is done entirely outside of us, accomplished by Jesus Christ.
But how does all that work that Jesus did come to us? We have to look at how God has promised to deliver the benefits. This connects us back to the promise of “where God causes his name to be remembered.” Thus, we are not left to our imaginations. Rather, we find forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation where Jesus tells us to find it: Word, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, and Absolution [Forgiveness pronounced].
This is often called “subjective justification.” That is, the Salvation Accomplished by Jesus is now brought to the person. Even this is done entirely outside of us. God makes alive (Ephesians 2:4-5), so that even faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). God regenerates (Titus 3:4-7), forgives, etc. But all this is done through the delivery means.
Our worship services focus on those delivery vehicles. Worship is centered on Word, Sacrament [Baptism and Lord’s Supper], and Absolution.
Thus, if we are troubled, anxious, sorrowful, distraught, etc., we need to turn to the Salvation Delivered, which brings us the benefits of Salvation Accomplished.
It is interesting that much of the talk about end times focuses on the latest news and what happens in certain countries with certain leaders. The assumption is that the better you know the signs, the better prepared you will be for the end times.
But when you read 2 Peter, a letter definitely focused on end times, you discover something far different.
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17-18 NAS)
The preparation for the end is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And how do we do that? We go where Jesus told us his name is remembered and receive Christ’s benefits through those delivery methods.
ER Bible Study 03
As noted in our discussion of modern and post-modern views of reality and observation, no one can approach the text as a neutral observer. Thus, we have to examine our own presuppositions because that will inform how we approach the text. We are Christians who confess the faith as Lutherans. So let’s take a look at what we mean by that.
For us, this chief article is clearly stated in Article IV of the Augsburg Confession.
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.
The shorthand phrase is: justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. For a more complete statement of this teaching, see the Apology [Defense] of the Augsburg Confession (http://www.bookofconcord.org/defense_4_justification.php#article4).
We start with the recognition historically of the distinction between the writings of the New Testament. There were 20 writings in the NT that were universally accepted as Scripture, called homologoumena (speaking the same): Four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, 1 Peter, and 1 John. The other 7 writings were not universally accepted, and the term used is antilegomena (“spoken against”): Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Historically the homologoumena are used to establish doctrine and the antilegomena are used to confirm doctrine.
We use other terms to describe the Scriptures:
Inspired (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)
Inerrant (John 10:35; Acts 24:14) (“without error”). Note that the referent for this word changed after 1880. Prior to that date, the referent was to the existing original language texts. After that date many has changed the referent to the original writing (autographs). The problem with this shift is that we do not have an autographs, and probably never will.
Perfection: Without defect
Perspicuity: Scripture is clear in the main teachings of the Bible
Efficacy: Scripture accomplishes what it says (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Uses of the Bible
Worship, using pericopes in lectionaries
Bible Study (formal)
Personal reading and devotion
Note that we believe in Jesus Christ, which then leads to accepting the Bible as God’s Word, not the other way around, as some teach. That is, some claim that a person has to believe the Bible is the Word of God in order to believe in Jesus Christ.
As Christians who confess the faith as Lutherans, this implies something about how we publicly confess that faith. The three Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian) establish the public confession of the Christian church throughout the ages. Note that the creeds do not add to the Bible, but rather, they are short statements that summarize what Scripture teaches.
Likewise the Confessional writings that form the rest of the Book of Concord are statements drawn from Scripture. We do not hold the creeds and confessions above Scripture, nothing is above Scripture in terms of the source of all teaching and preaching. Rather, the creeds/confessions address false teachings that have arisen over the centuries. For the Book of Concord two statements reflect this position:
“The Church has always taught” — noting that what the papal church was teaching in the late middle ages and the Reformation era had deviated from Scripture and the historic church. The Reformers (Luther, Melancthon, et al) write that what is presented matches Scripture and what the Church has always taught.
“We believe, teach, and confess” —the church and its pastors and teachers commit themselves to publicly accept the doctrinal statements.
The church has faced many challenges to the Christian faith. Perhaps the most significant was and is the anti-Trinitarian challenges. The first was the teaching of Arius, a Bishop of North Africa, who taught that Jesus was God, not the true God. The matter was discussed at the Council of Nicea in AD 325, and resulted in the writing of the Nicene Creed. It was latter slightly revised in the council of Constantinople in AD 381.
As Christians who stand in the light of that Creed, we still battle against the anti-Trinitarian teachings. The most prominent today is the Jehovah Witnesses, but also the Oneness Pentecostal movement. Even the view that God is “progressing” calls into question the Triune God.
The historic use of “ecumenical” was to establish unity for the church as a whole, which was based on doctrinal unity. Sadly in the late 19th and 20th centuries, the term was used in a different way, denoting unity as outward unity, without regard to doctrine, or minimal doctrine.
There are three aspects to that unity that still are pertinent today for us as Christians.
Holy: the Church of believers in Jesus Christ is called holy. Paul uses the phrase frequently to describe the Christians in various churches in the first century Mediterranean region (i.e. Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2).
Catholic: The word means “universal” and refers to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. The Church catholic has nothing to do with a denomination or outward church body (i.e. the papal church), but identifies all who believe in Jesus Christ regardless of outward association. Obviously this does not include heretical groups such as Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses (and others).
Apostolic: As Christians we are conscious that the writers (and companions) were the source of teaching about Jesus Christ and the early church. We cannot move beyond that foundation. Thus, when we begin any kind of ecumenical discussions, the apostolic nature of the Scriptures and the Church must be front and center.
Thus, in the creed we use the phrase “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Beyond these terms two others have been used in reference to the church at large.
Orthodox: Originally the word meant “straight praise” and soon became synonymous “straight doctrine.” Worship and teaching/preaching need to be straight for the ecumenical principle to be effective.
Evangelical: The Greek word , is “good news” or “Gospel.” Historically this belonged to the Church catholic. During the time of the Reformation the term designated the followers of Martin Luther who recovered the Gospel. So for centuries the Lutheran Church in Germany was known as the Evangelishe Kirke (Evangelical Church). In the past century one portion of Protestants in the US have coopted the term to refer to themselves, and so we hear of the “Evangelical movement.” But that is a narrow, even sectarian use of the term.
This concludes part 1 of the presuppositions of faith by which we approach the Scriptures. Our next study will focus on the remaining five principles.
(This post is a little longer than I intended. Most of this material is adapted from Dr. James Voelz, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.)
We continued our study of principles of Interpreting the Biblical text. One underlying aspect of the world in which we live relates to how we view the world. It is helpful to contrast the Modern view and (Radical) Post-Modern view. This following diagram helps:
The key for the (radical) post-modern: There is no standard. Each person can determine his or her own reality and understanding, even if they conflict or are contradictory. One common word to reflect this: “Whatever.”
A Mediating Way: The key: a person cannot approach any reality with a neutral, objective perspective. Thus, we have to identify our own presuppositions before we approach the text.
Dr. Voelz has brought much clarity to the interpreting task by noting that the word “meaning” is used in at least three different ways. This obviously causes confusion, because people discuss the topic and use “meaning” but in different ways, and hence they do not really communicate. The following provides a simplistic approach based on his work.
Level 1: This is the most basic level, and it deals with the marks on the page (I.e. letters, words, etc.). We will use “signifiers” to refer to these marks. This level constitutes what a text is saying.
Level 1 gives the “sense of the text.”
Level 2: At this level, the reader does not read the marks on the page, but what is “image” of what Level 1 narrates. Thus, the signifiers become the actions, situations, attitudes that are portrayed in Level 1. The signifiers always have to be interpreted within a matrix, never in isolation.
It would be helpful if the text itself added a Level 1 statement telling us the significance of the text. Not always done, and not always correct.
(See Matthew 12:22-24: Level 1 is found in v. 21, a correct Level 2 is in v. 23, and an incorrect Level 2 is in v. 24)
Level 2 gives the “significance of the text.”
Level 3: At this level, we are not concerned with what is written, rather what the text tells us about the author. So, at this level, we are concerned with questions like: who is the author, who is the audience, where was it written, when was it written. Often this is called “introductory matters” (technical term: isagogics).
Level 3 gives us the “implications of the text.”
Note that using “meaning” to describe each level is not at all helpful. Thus, we will refer to the levels as convenient references. Often I will say, is this a Level 1 or Level 2 issue? How do we approach it on each level? An example
7:14-15 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
The event is described.
7:16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”
The last statement is a Level 2 assessment of the action in Level 1 (what Jesus did).
The question is: Why does Luke include this instance in his Gospel account? Perhaps as a physician he is concerned with health issues more than other Gospel writers.
We also looked at Taxonomy, which refers to which components are necessary to identify and categorize something. For instance, a top-down taxonomy might look like this:
Furniture > Chair > Rocking Chair > Swivel Rocking Chair
Notice that the further we go, the more components are necessary to designate the item.
In Biblical studies, we discover the same issue. Consider Matthew 6:9 [Jesus said:] Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven,…
The question here is what are the necessary components of “Father” that are included in this reference to God? Can there be good and bad? How do we determine that? Taxonomy is critical when we are working with non-literal use (i.e. metaphors). Consider the sateme“Jesus is the gate.” What components of “gate” are applicable to Jesus?
We briefly looked at how a text functions. What is the force of the text. Philemon 22 is one example that looks at the force of Paul’s visit in light of everything he had written to Philemon about Onesimus prior to that.
We also looked at Performative speech; namely the words actually do what they say. In worship, the best example is after the confession of sins, the pastor says, “I forgive you your sins.” The saying of it actually accomplishes that very forgiving.
And finally we looked at the question of whether something commanded in Scripture is valid today?
We started the ER Bible Study two weeks ago: End Times and Revelation. The first two weeks have been focused on issues of interpreting (in general, but specifically the Bible). I have used a simple outline of items that Dr. James Voelz uses for teaching the topic.
How do we approach the Scriptures?
A follow on question is: Are the Scriptures the record of the developing religious consciousness of humanity of their sense of the divine? The answer will affect how we approach the Bible, and how we explain the relationship between the parts.
This sounds odd at first, but it is necessary for us to be clear about what we are actually studying. We do not have any original writings of the the New Testament (or the Old Testament, for that matter). We have handwritten copies (called manuscripts) of copies of copies of the originals. And no two manuscripts are identical.
When we come to a text to study, we have to see what the manuscript differences are. If there are differences in the available original language manuscripts, we have to see how that affects how to interpret and understand the text. Consider Mark 16 (specifically vv. 9-20) which in the manuscripts shows three different endings. Two of the oldest manuscripts end at v. 8. But that leaves an unsatisfactory, not to mention unusual ending for the Gospel.
So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.
And in the Greek, it is even more startling because it ends with the word ga¿r, unknown elsewhere in the New Testament (and other era readings). And then it ends with dramatic statement: “the disciples were afraid.”
So, we find two alternate endings for this text. The longer ending includes vv. 9-20 (as included the KJV/NKJV, and offset in other translations). And the shorter ending has two verses to “complete” the Gospel. Many scholars note the difference of style in these verses from the rest of Mark’s Gospel. Also, 42 new terms are used in these 12 verses that are not used elsewhere in Mark. And three depending on whether you consider it part of the text will determine how you will interpret the texts (16:15-16, and then 17-18).
Here we find manuscript differences with three words. While might seem small, they have significant influence on the text and even doctrinal understanding.
NKJV: “But of that day and hour [the end] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
NAS: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
In this case, if the phrase is included, then that affects how we understand Christology (specifically the two natures of Christ: divine and human). The question arises: How can the Son not know, if he is true God? And it affects our understanding of the trinity.
We actually have two problems here. The original language texts of the New Testament are in Greek. So we have to deal with the meanings of words in those languages, at the time they were written. But now as people living in the 21st century we also have to deal with the text in English, and what they mean.
There are two extremes in regard to the necessity of knowing Greek to understand the text. One states that we must read the text in the original language. The other states that there is no reason to ever read the Greek, translation is sufficient. The reality is between those extremes. That is, to read in the English allows the reader to gain the sense of the text and the main content. But reading the Greek provides greater precision and understanding to complement. As Dr. Voelz notes, the difference is between watching a sports event on black and white TV vs. going to the game. The game and its overall movement are the same, but greater insight comes from seeing it live. That’s what Greek provides for the text of Scripture.
John 3:16 How do we interpret/understand “so” [Greek: ou¢twß] (so much? or in this way?)
NAS: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
HCSB: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 1:9 Compare whether there are two characteristics of God or more:
NIV (two things, then also forgive)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
NKJV: ινα: purpose or result [less likely]
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Greek word is ινα. Perhaps it is best to translate as “God’s faithfulness and justice/righteousness consists in forgiving sins”
Matthew 27:53 . How do we understand the relationship between “coming out of the tombs”? Does it connect with the crucifixion? Or does it connect with the resurrection? What difference will that make in understanding, teaching, and preaching the text?
1 Cor. 8:10 what is weak? Does the weakness refer to the person or conscience?
“If his conscience is weak” ESV
“Conscience of him who is weak” NKJV, weakness is not related to conscience but the person
Do we translate and understand it as “If he is weak,” or “because he is weak”? Note that using the dictionary doesn’t help the reader to understand the text.
In these cases, the writer and original readers have some knowledge that allows them to understand gaps in the text. But for those of us removed from the original text by 20+ centuries, we have trouble filling the gaps. Perhaps the best example of this is 2 Thes. 2:7
τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας·
μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already working;
only the holding one right now until it/he comes to be out of the midst
We will explore more of the text and syntax in the next session.