How Christians Keep or Violate the Sabbath

As the new covenant people of God, Christians are to keep the Sabbath. The fourth commandment is no less timeless than the other nine, and so we must keep it entirely. Yet the difference between old and new covenant Sabbath keeping is radical. Jesus fulfilled and redefined Sabbath keeping, having done away with the types and shadows. He has granted to His people the fullness of rest in Him.

Breaking the Sabbath in New Ways

Unfortunately, we Christians violate the fourth commandment  by our efforts to adjust our standing with God by the keeping of regulations. Regarding the Lord’s Sabbath rest, we are violating His law as we attempt to make our way to Him by our keeping of that law – including our special behaviors and rituals on Sundays.

If on Sundays we pray extra long, don’t stop to pump gas, and make sure not to fuss too much in the kitchen because we are attempting to gain something from Him, we have missed the point of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and rest for us at the Father’s right hand.

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Justin Martyr on Israel, Jews, Christians, and the Old and New Covenants

The second-century saw a young Christianity getting her legs, and forming a more catholic, firm identity as the new covenant people. I recently researched early second-century father Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jewish philosopher. The debate is representative of the friction between Jews of Judaism and the Christian Church. Fascinating in its depth, the dispute between them is revealing for Christians today who are seeking to learn more of their roots… in other words, the early fathers have a value that we must mine out and share with one another if we are to survive the vapid, materialistic Western culture pervading the American version of Christianity.

The following is my recent seminary paper reviewing the Dialogue. I encourage you to read it all, and to look up the references. If you’re like me, you need some depth and history behind your Christian life. Grace to all of you who love the Lord Jesus, our new Lawgiver.

Introduction: The Relationship between Israel and the Early Church

The early Church believed itself to have inherited the Old Testament promises given throughout the Old Testament narrative to ethnic Israel. Extant apologetic works from the first few centuries prominently feature Christians arguing that the new covenant was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, both for Jew and Gentile. The Church after the ascension “regarded itself as a continuation and development of Judaism,” and so the second-century Apologists like Justin Martyr examined the relationship between the old and new covenants.[1] In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, his contention was that Christianity was the natural continuation of Judaism as branch is to root (c.f. Rom. 11:17-18).[2]

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John’s Gospel Prologue: Jesus is the Focal Point of History

The biggest reason my blogs are flapping in the breeze without much activity lately is because I’m a full-time seminarian. We’re toward the end of the semester, when sleep is slim and pizza at 2 A.M. could maybe just work. But I digress.

This is the exegesis paper (don’t run!) that I just handed in today, concerning John 1:1-18. You think you know John’s prologue? Take a closer look! It has been a tremendous eye-opener to me, in how little I know texts of Scripture with which I think I’m familiar. With no further blah-blah, here’s the outline of John 1:1-18, and my 2,800 word analysis. Enjoy!

Scripture used is ESV.

How the Word relates to everything (vv. 1-5)

 

  • How the Word relates to God (vv. 1-2)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

  • How the Word relates to creation (vv. 3-5)

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John the Baptist’s role in revealing God’s activity in the world (vv. 6-8)

 

  • John’s identity in relation to God (v. 6)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

  • John points all to the activity of God in redemptive history (v. 7)

He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

  • John’s relation to the light (v. 8)

He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The Word in the world before the incarnation (vv. 9-13)

 

  • The Word entering into and at work in the world before the incarnation (vv. 9-11)

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

  • The Word effecting the new birth in those who received him (vv. 12-13)

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

The Incarnation of the Word (vv. 14-18)

 

  • The Word became a man and is the Son of the Father in heaven (v. 14)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • John declares Jesus Christ the Word incarnate as the source of grace and truth (vv. 15-17)

15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

  • Jesus is God at the Father’s side and makes the Father known (v. 18)

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

Introduction to John 1:1-18—Purpose and Background

            Of the four Gospels in the New Testament, John alone presents an extended prologue to his material. His introductory focus is broader than that of the synoptics, and his theological framework more developed and explicit. The prologue begins by peering back into pre-history to locate in and through Christ the timeless activity of God. This passage is the revelation of Jesus as the lens through which cosmic and redemptive history must be seen and understood. Even its ambiguities are used as a literary device toward the goal of revealing Jesus for who he is.[1]

The late-first century author would have known that Gnosticism was becoming popular, Christians and Jews were forging separate identities, and that Christianity was coming into contact with cultures far abroad from Palestine.[2] Within the prologue, the author appropriates and redefines Gnostic language, alludes to pre-Christian Jewish literature, and sets forth Christ as the source of universal light for humankind.[3]

Commentators note that the prologue appears to be a hymn that the author has restructured as a fitting introduction to his Gospel, yet this is not the only reasonable hypothesis for the shifts in style.[4] In this paper I will be reading the text as having been written originally in the form it appears now.

The Form of the Prologue

The structure of the passage is indeed poetic. The first two verses contain the repetitious Word-Word-God-Word-God-God. From there, themes of life, light, darkness, and world (all characteristically Johannine) fill out the text, carrying along the revelation of who the Word is in relation to God and the world of humans. John the Baptist is introduced in layers of dissonant interruption to the poetic flow in vv.6-8 and 15, which for many commentators is evidence of redaction.[5] In verses 1 and 18, the author has made use of an inclusio to tie the entire prologue together as a unit—“the Word was with God” (v. 1), and “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (v. 18).[6]

How the Word Relates to Everything (vv. 1-5)

The first two words of the passage, Ἐν ἀρχῇ (In the beginning), are identical to those of Genesis in the Septuagint. The thematic focus is also the same: God is at the center of the story, and he is active. The purpose of the author is immediately to connect his work with the Old Testament narrative of the origin of the cosmos. His aim is to join the work of God from Genesis to the presence and work of the Word, later identified as Jesus (v. 14, 17). This allusion is an indication that the author is dealing in Jewish literary currency.

In arguing that the entire prologue is Midrash, Daniel Boyarin demonstrates the passage as interacting with Genesis 1 as an expression of Jewish thought.[7] Boyarin notes that in pre-Christian Jewish theology, there were common categories for a divine Word (λόγος) whose presence with God did not conflict with monotheism.[8] The examples he cites, however, are not true parallels to the Christology of John, but rather loose comparisons. Even the Wisdom passages of Prov. 8:22-31, Sirach 24:1-34, et al would have served to have prepared the Jewish mind for the reality of different persons with God in his glorious state, but none of these gave place to a divine Son equal in glory to the Father.[9] Nevertheless, the environment of the author’s time was rich with Jewish and Hellenistic writings that would have prepared the cultured for the theology of John’s prologue.

The Genesis parallel sees God in the beginning, presupposed unapologetically, and John sees the Word in that same place, both being “with God,” and yet “the Word was God” (v. 1). Whatever God is, the Word is. This is brought forth into more clarity by repetition: “He was in the beginning with God” (v. 2). The Word’s relation to God, therefore, is one of pure unity, yet with substantive differentiation of personality.[10] His beginning is the same as God’s in that he has no temporal, creaturely beginning. Whenever God has been, so has been the Word.

Furthering the Genesis parallel, the author then relates the Word to the realm of creation. He writes redundantly “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (v. 3). The Word is then the instrument of the creative work of God, the indispensable person at the helm during the Genesis narrative. There is something more to John’s prologue, though, in comparison with Genesis. The very essence of life is mysteriously contained in him, and that principle is “the light of men” (v. 4b). In the cosmic creation of Genesis 1, the light is a created thing, brought forth in the physical realm, but in John 1 the light is eternal with the Word, and is the sentience of the human creature.[11] As the life in him is an essential characteristic of his eternality and thus divinity, and it is something that is in each human, so v. 4 echoes the imago Dei of Genesis 1:26.

Verse 5 introduces conflict into the prologue. Here the author indicates a shift in tense, as φαίνει (shines) is the first present-tense usage so far. What is communicated is that as “the light shines in the darkness” presently, “and the darkness has not overcome it” (v. 5). With this concept the present reader (timelessly), may identify his or her own experience. As such Schnackenburg claims that in Johannine literature, “darkness . . . means primarily the world estranged from God.”[12] This is the purpose of John’s Gospel: he has his eye on reader response from the beginning to the end (cf. 20:30-31).

Up through v. 4, the Word was in perfect harmony with God and with all created things, so the sudden introduction of darkness that would overcome the light is jarring. Here the word for overcome is ambiguous, and many English translations differ from each other accordingly, alternating between “overcome” and “comprehended,” or “grasped.” The evangelist most likely chose the word for its ambiguity, as a polyvalent meaning is only appropriate for such a complex subject.[13] Ironically, the commentator who gave such a strong definition of evil to John’s “darkness” has created a simplistic dichotomy between “overwhelm” and “grasp,” insisting that we must choose the latter, seeing as people did not “grasp” the Word by faith when they had the chance.[14] Yet as the darkness of humankind is the cause of estrangement from God, then the evangelist uses ambiguity here with both meanings: humankind, in darkness, would both comprehend and overcome the light (but by nature cannot). Conversely, the darkness would seem to be of such an extraordinary nature that even the light of the life in the Word has not yet reached its depths to extinguish it. Thus the relationship of the Word with God is perfect, yet the world of humans that he created is in some way at enmity with him.

John the Baptist’s Role in Revealing God’s Activity in the World (vv. 6-8)

As abruptly as the passage begins, so the flow is suddenly averted out of the abstract and cosmological to a lone figure standing on the stage of history. This man, “whose name was John,” was “sent from God” (v. 6). Though some commentators view this sudden shift away from the Wisdom Midrash of vv. 1-5 as a clear indication of it being a later addition, the evidence cited is merely speculative.[15] The jarring conflict introduced in v. 5 paves the way for a resolution—and John the Baptist plays the role of telling what it will be.[16] He has come in relation to God as “a witness about the light,” in order that “all might believe through him” in the light (v. 7).

The Baptist is the complete Old Covenant man, and his placement in this text indicates that the focus continues to be the history of the world before the Incarnation.[17] At the time of the writing of the Gospel of John, there would have still been pockets of the followers of John the Baptist, who had not believed that Jesus was the Messiah.[18] The author made clear that John was not himself the light, but rather had the unique role of “bear[ing] witness about the light” (v. 8b).

The Word in the World before the Incarnation (vv. 9-13)

            In contrast to John the Baptist there is one who is “the true light” (v. 9a). The conflict introduced into the text in v. 8 is resolved by distinguishing John from the true light. As redemptive history is only understood by seeing all things in light of Jesus’ person and work, this section is the beating heart of the prologue. Here the true light “gives light to everyone” (v. 9b). As Boyarin says, this section up through v. 13 is still “unexceptional non-Christian Jewish thought” wherein John’s place in announcing the true light as having been “coming into the world” through the Old Testament period would have easily comported with the theology of the first-century Jew.[19]

The text is ambiguous in v. 9; the Greek could allow that “the true light gives light to every human coming into the world,” as opposed to the ESV wherein the true light is the subject of “coming into the world.”  Here Barrett argues convincingly that the light’s coming into the world has been a continuous action, as by v. 10 “he was in the world” already.[20] Brodie also notes the inappropriateness of dividing “was coming” from the connotation of his having been arriving gradually throughout the time of the Old Testament.[21] Seeing as the prologue begins with “in the beginning,” it is reasonable to read this verse as describing his continual activity as Creator and Redeemer, coming into the world and shedding light on everyone. Barrett agrees that it was the true light which was coming into the world, but then claims it “is to be taken as a reference to the incarnation.”[22] It is odd that he would draw such a hard line here, seeing as v. 14 provides the decisive announcement that the Incarnation has occurred. Moloney sees it even more distinctly as a reference to the Incarnation, asserting “reference to the coming of the Word into the world cannot be put off till v. 14.”[23] He wrongly assumes and asserts that if the text states the Word was in the world that it must and can only be Jesus’ appearance in the flesh.

In reading v. 10 and calling into question the point in history that “the world did not know him,” Raymond Brown insists that the great Old Testament sin was “failure to obey Yahweh” over against the supposed sin of the New Testament, “failure to know” Jesus.[24] He seems to discount here the fact that the true light was giving light to “every human,” including Gentiles, and so the sin of “not knowing him” was as much a sin of the pre-Christian world as it is post-Incarnation.

Continuing to see the activity of God through his Word before the Incarnation, v. 11 indicates that he had been arriving in and throughout his world of humans, as the Creator who gives light. Yet the second half of the verse sharpens the focus to “his own people,” who is Israel. The testimony here is that neither those who were near (by covenant blessings), nor those who were far (Gentiles) were receiving him—yet in the beginning of v. 12 we see that some indeed received him.[25] It was to those who “receive[d] him” by “believ[ing] in his name” that “he gave the right to become children of God.” This stands in contrast to the idea of “his own people” in v. 11 who had not received him; yet there were always those who were his family by virtue of his redeeming work. The nature of the redemption of those who received him is seen in that they “were born” of the will “of God” (v. 13), not by any possible human means.

 The Incarnation of the Word (vv. 14-18)

            Here the radical nature of Christianity is revealed. This one who was eternally with God, who is God, has become a man of flesh. He who gave “the right to become children of God” (v. 12b) is himself the “only Son from the Father” (v. 14b), already in the family. His sonship is unique, and there is no one else in this category with him.[26] Furthermore, he is now seen as being “full of grace and truth” (v. 14c). This is the perfect answer to the conflict between God and humankind; John announces the nature and arrival of the light in the world, and here the Son himself arrives as a man full of grace and truth for the world who had not known him.

This grace and truth is not invisible; however, for the author claims “we have seen his glory” (v. 14b), and this is the glory of the unique Son from the Father. There is something new about this glory, as the light had been coming into the world (v. 9), but for the evangelist, the glory he perceived in the Incarnation was supreme and unmistakable. The glory of the Son is then connected to v. 14c, “full of grace and truth;” the glory is seen in his pre-existence and supremacy above John in v. 15, his fullness of grace in v. 16, his superseding of the Mosaic economy in v. 17, and his being the “only God, who is at the Father’s side” in v.18. In the Johannine angle on biblical theology, the glory of the Son is most fully revealed in his being “lifted up” on the cross to bear the sins of the world (12:32-33).[27]

John’s sudden reappearance in v. 15 is the evangelist’s means of orienting the reader once again to the historicity of these events. His proclamation that “he was before me” indicates that John knows something of the Son’s pre-existence before the Incarnation,[28] and that he sees the Son as the focal point of God’s redemptive activity in human history. V. 16 likely introduces the editorial voice of the author, but if it is still the Baptist speaking, the effect is the same: the ESV’s “grace upon grace” (χάριν  ἀντὶ  χάριτος) is a less-than-perfect translation of another ambiguous statement. The use of ἀντὶ for the preposition is unusual for this type of phrase, and carries with it the sense of grace replacing grace.

In v. 16a, the author appropriates the Gnostic term πληρώματος (fullness), and defines it as something the Son possesses. In Gnostic parlance, the πληρώματος was a hierarchy of divine messengers who brought forth the secret knowledge from on high, but in John’s prologue, it is entirely found in the Son.[29] In this context, the grace replacing grace is clarified in v. 17 as “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” This is not to detract from the grace of the law given through Moses, but rather to contrast the fullness of grace now revealed in Jesus Christ.

In a final, absolute sense, the author finishes his prologue by inclusio with v. 1, reminding the reader that this Jesus Christ, the Word “who is at the Father’s side . . . has made him known” (v. 18) who would otherwise be unknowable, (as “no one has ever seen God”). Without Jesus’ becoming flesh, redemptive history would have remained a constantly unfolding tragedy of the darkness in humankind being unable to grasp the light.

Jesus as the Lens for Human Life

From this passage we may learn that without seeing, receiving, and believing in Jesus, there is only darkness for every person. The first half of the prologue reveals him as the Creator and Redeemer of the whole earth. John the Baptist appears in the Jewish prophetic tradition, which is a nod to the Jewishness of the Son Incarnate and to the Old Covenant promises given to Israel. It is clear then that God’s gracious activity in the world has been happening since creation, has carried on in the entire world, but has been focused on Israel. In the historical record of that nation, a man named Jesus walked in the flesh, and that man was God himself. All of human life ought to be turned toward this gospel story, as there is grace and truth in him, and only him.

The literal reading of this historical record is needed for the church to maintain the essential grounding of our faith. Seeing God’s merciful activity in the world since the beginning of time ought to be motivation to believe in his name, and to trust him for the grace that is needed to heal our world.

 


[1]. Thomas L. Brodie, The Gospel According to John: A Literary and Theological Commentary (New York: Oxford, 1993), 138.

 [2]. Charles Kingsley Barrett, The Gospel According to Saint John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (2nd ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 152; Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (i-xii) (Anchor Bible Series 29; Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1966), 31; Andrew Lincoln, “The Gospel According to Saint John,” in Black’s New Testament Commentaries (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 93.

 [3]. Barrett, St. John, 153.

[4]. Brodie, 134, contra Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to Saint John: Introduction and Commentary on Chapters 1—4, vol. 1 (New York: Seabury, 1980), 221-232; n. 2-3. Brodie notes the reasonability of discerning a hymnic origin to the prologue based on the rhythm and structure of it, but also points out the fact that there has been little consensus among scholars as to the precise form or origin of the putative original. The details of this discussion are beyond the scope of my exegetical concerns.

[5]. E.g. Schnackenburg, St. John, 249 wherein his presupposition of a redacted hymn forces the interpretation of the intrusion of the Baptist in v. 6 as interpolation, rather than as the natural sequence of the author’s original writing.

 [6]. The reading of either “Son” or “God” due to the textual variant in v. 18 must lie beyond the scope of this paper, as the meaning is essentially the same whichever is original.

[7]. Daniel Boyarin, “Logos, A Jewish Word: John’s Prologue as Midrash,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (ed. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler; New York: Oxford, 2011), 549.

[8]. Ibid., 546-547.

[9]. Barrett, St. John, 153; Schnackenburg, St. John, 235.

 [10]. Ben Witherington, III, John’s Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel (Louisville: John Knox, 1995), 53 highlights the careful use of θεὸς (God) without the definite article as a means of distinguishing him from τὸν  θεόν (“the” God – not translated as such in English), yet without dividing them in essence.

[11]. Witherington, Wisdom, 55.

 [12]. Schnackenburg, St. John, 245.

[13]. Brodie, John, 138.

 [14]. Schnackenburg, St. John, 246.

[15]. Ibid., 249-250.

[16]. Barrett, St. John, 153.

 [17]. Brodie, John, 139.

 [18]. Acts 19:1-4 indicates a scattered presence of John the Baptist’s followers who were unclear about his role in revealing the true Christ.

[19]. Boyarin, Logos, 549.

 [20]. Barrett, St. John, 160.

 [21]. Brodie, John, 140.

[22]. Barrett, St. John, 161.

[23]. Francis J. Moloney, “The Gospel of John” in Sacra Pagina Series, vol. 4. (ed. Daniel J. Harrington; Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical, 1998), 37.

 [24]. Brown, John, 10.

[25]. Brodie, John, 140.

[26]. Witherington, Wisdom, 54.

 [27]. J. Richard Middleton, “Exegesis of John 1:1-18” (lecture, BIB512NE, Session #8, C4, Northeastern Seminary, May 2, 2013).

 [28]. Moloney, John, 40.

[29]. Ibid.

Leave any feedback you may have.

-Adam

The Jewish Messiah has Come: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius wrote a chapter in On the Incarnation refuting the unbelief of the Jews. In today’s excerpt, we see this mighty Church Father shaking the cage of the unbelieving Jewish nation, calling them to repent of their rejection of Jesus, and to see Him as their long-awaited Messiah.

In love and respect to those practicing post-Messiah Judaism, I stand as one in debt to your fathers, your Scriptures, your nation. It is history’s great irony that I am of the seed of Abraham, and you are not, though you be his children, and I am not. I urge you to drink deeply of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and God of Israel become Man.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

How would you challenge the Jews who reject their Messiah?

Well…

When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them.

And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow? On His account only they prophesied continually, until such time as Essential Righteousness has come, Who was made the Ransom for the sins of all. For the same reason Jerusalem stood until the same time, in order that there men might premeditate the types before the Truth was known. So, of course, once the Holy One of holies had come, both vision and prophecy were sealed. And the kingdom of Jerusalem ceased at the same time, because kings were to be anointed among them only until the Holy of holies had been anointed.

Moses also prophesies that the kingdom of the Jews shall stand until His time, saying, “A ruler shall not fail from Judah nor a prince from his loins, until the things laid up for him shall come and the Expectation of the nations Himself.”

And that is why the Savior Himself was always proclaiming “The law and the prophets prophesied until John.” So if there is still king or prophet or vision among the Jews, they do well to deny that Christ is come; but if there is neither king nor vision, and since that time all prophecy has been sealed and city and temple taken, how can they be so irreligious, how can they so flaunt the facts, as to deny Christ Who has brought it all about?

Again, they see the heathen forsaking idols and setting their hopes through Christ on the God of Israel; why do they yet deny Christ Who after the flesh was born of the root of Jesse and reigns henceforward? Of course, if the heathen were worshipping some other god, and not confessing the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses, then they would do well to argue that God had not come. But if the heathen are honoring the same God Who gave the law to Moses and the promises to Abraham—the God Whose word too the Jews dishonored, why do they not recognize or rather why do they deliberately refuse to see that the Lord of Whom the Scriptures prophesied has shone forth to the world and appeared to it in a bodily form? Scripture declares it repeatedly.

“The Lord God has appeared to us,” and again,

“He sent forth His Word and healed them.” And again,

“It was no ambassador, no angel who saved us, but the Lord Himself.”

The Jews are afflicted like some demented person who sees the earth lit up by the sun, but denies the sun that lights it up! What more is there for their Expected One to do when he comes? To call the heathen? But they are called already. To put an end to prophet and king and vision? But this too has already happened. To expose the God-denying-ness of idols? It is already exposed and condemned. Or to destroy death? It is already destroyed.

What then has not come to pass that the Christ must do? What is there left out or unfulfilled that the Jews should disbelieve so light-heartedly? The plain fact is, as I say, that there is no longer any king or prophet nor Jerusalem nor sacrifice nor vision among them; yet the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God, and the Gentiles, forsaking atheism, are now taking refuge with the God of Abraham through the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Surely, then, it must be plain even to the most shameless that the Christ has come, and that He has enlightened all men everywhere, and given them the true and divine teaching about His Father.

Thus the Jews may be refuted by these and other arguments from the Divine teaching.

His language may not be politically correct, but his arguments are surely potent. Be reconciled with the God of your fathers, Jewish friends. Jesus is Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Crucifixion was Invented After it was Foreseen in the Hebrew Scriptures

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Peppers

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God.

The earliest uses of crucifixion date to around the 6th century B.C., but was not in wide use until centuries later.

Think with me now. The Bible is plainly a supernatural work, and the predictive prophecy aspect of it is one of its strongest proofs for this. If someone in the Bible wrote predictive prophecy about someone being crucified long before it was invented, then it is logical to conclude that whoever wrote the prediction had a vision of a future reality.

Check these three Scriptures:

1) Psalm 22, circa 1000 B.C., which is over 1,000 years before Jesus was crucified.

It begins with the words Jesus shouted from the cross of His crucifixion:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

The lament goes on detailing the forsakenness of the crucified one, and then He describes a bodily suffering which is particular to crucifixion:

14 I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.

He is suffering terrible pains of death – but then He says something that cannot be anything but a prophecy of God’s Son, nailed to the accursed tree, suffering the wrath of God in our place:

16 For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.

They pierced My hands and My feet;

17 I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.

There was no such method of execution at the time this Psalm was written. But in case someone is still confused as to whom this Psalm refers, He goes on to observe as

18 They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots. (NKJV)

Just like the Roman soldiers did for Jesus’ clothing. Perfect, pure, prophecy.

2) Isaiah 53, circa 730 B.C, over 750 years before Jesus was crucified.

He was bearing our punishment on that cross. Look at what Isaiah said:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and Yahweh has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (ESV)

Life-giving prophecy. Not the screwy, Harold Camping-type junk that fills the internet and “Christian” T.V. – just the pure Scripture of the Holy Spirit, telling us about our glorious Savior centuries before His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

3) Zechariah 12, circa 430 B.C., almost 500 years before Jesus’ crucifixion.

God speaks in the first person here. Think about that, and look:

10 And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. (NKJV)

Jesus, speaking in the first person as Yahweh, God of Israel. The only way they could look on God whom they pierced would be if He became a man, became “piercible.”

Look upon Him, and live.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Beautiful Atonement: Prophesy Good Friday

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

For this Good Friday, it is only appropriate to call upon the greatest Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. Isaiah chapter 52:13-53:12 is the beautiful picture of the suffering Servant of Yahweh, the One who would be crushed for our iniquities.

Written 700 years before the first Good Friday, Isaiah had the honor of spelling out the means of God’s redemption of Israel. He would lay on Jesus the iniquity of us all.

Read with me the bare naked words of this prophecy, and read them aloud if possible. Read them slowly, with contemplation… and if you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, read with gratitude. If you have not, here is proof that the Bible is supernatural, for how did a man write these words 700 years before they came true? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized for the remission of sins.

I’ve included just a few words in the text [in brackets] which clarify a few obscure terms.

Rejoice.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NKJV)

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage[face] was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
15 So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.

1 Who has believed our report?

And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness[beauty];
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement[punishment] for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased Yahweh to crush Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of Yahweh shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

Good Friday

Glory to the Name of Jesus! Suffering Lamb of God! Died He for me, that I may live, and died He to bring me close to Him!

The cross of Jesus is precious because by it we get Jesus forever.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Spurgeon on Psalm 2: Prophecy Fridays

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

Treasury of David

Charles H. Spurgeon’s Treasury of David is his expository commentary through the Psalms. Spurgeon here deals in detail with this richly prophetic poem – written 1,000 years before Jesus was born, speaking clearly of Him as the King who is to be feared and loved. This will take us a little while to work through, which means probably nobody will read it. But for those of you who have a few moments to meditate on God’s Word, I encourage you to take in this prophetic word for today.

I’ve clipped down the full text to just the exposition and some additional quotations for verse 12. There is a link towards the bottom if you want to see the entire chapter.

Open the lens of your soul, and behold Christ Jesus stand out in the Old Testament.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God.

Text of Psalm 2:

1 Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against Yahweh and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree:
Yahweh has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve Yahweh with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

And Charles Spurgeon’s Commentary:

EXPOSITION

Verses 1 – 3

We have, in these first three verses, a description of the hatred of human nature against the Christ of God. No better comment is needed upon it than the apostolic song in Acts 4:27, 28: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” The Psalm begins abruptly with an angry interrogation; and well it may: it is surely but little to be wondered at, that the sight of creatures in arms against their God should amaze the psalmist’s mind.

We see the heathen raging, roaring like the sea, tossed to and fro with restless waves, as the ocean in a storm; and then we mark the people in their hearts imagining a vain thing against God. Where there is much rage there is generally some folly, and in this case there is an excess of it. Note, that the commotion is not caused by the people only, but their leaders foment the rebellion. “The kings of the earth set themselves.”

In determined malice they arrayed themselves in opposition against God. It was not temporary rage, but deep-seated hate, for they set themselves resolutely to withstand the Prince of Peace“And the rulers take counsel together.” They go about their warfare craftily, not with foolish haste, but deliberately. They use all the skill which art can give. Like Pharaoh, they cry, “Let us deal wisely with them.” O that men were half as careful in God’s service to serve him wisely, as his enemies are to attack his kingdom craftily.

Sinners have their wits about them, and yet saints are dull. But what say they? what is the meaning of this commotion? “Let us break their bands asunder.” “Let us be free to commit all manner of abominations. Let us be our own gods. Let us rid ourselves of all restraint.” Gathering impudence by the traitorous proposition of rebellion, they add—“let us cast away;” as if it were an easy matter — “let us fling off ‘their cords from us.’” What! O ye kings, do ye think yourselves Samsons? and are the bands of Omnipotence but as green withs before you? Do you dream that you shall snap to pieces and destroy the mandates of God—the decrees of the Most High—as if they were but tow? and do ye say, “Let us cast away their cords from us?” Yes! There are monarchs who have spoken thus, and there are still rebels upon thrones. However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his creation, and he continues in it to this very day.

The glorious reign of Jesus in the latter day will not be consummated, until a terrible struggle has convulsed the nations. His coming will be as a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap, and the day thereof shall burn as an oven. Earth loves not her rightful monarch, but clings to the usurper’s sway: the terrible conflicts of the last days will illustrate both the world’s love of sin and Jehovah’s power to give the kingdom to his only Begotten. To a graceless neck the yoke of Christ is intolerable, but to the saved sinner it is easy and light. We may judge ourselves by this, do we love that yoke, or do we wish to cast it from us?

Verse 4.

Let us now turn our eyes from the wicked counsel-chamber and raging tumult of man, to the secret place of the majesty of the Most High. What doth God say? What will the King do unto the men who reject his only-begotten Son, the Heir of all things? Mark the quiet dignity of the Omnipotent One, and the contempt which he pours upon the princes and their raging people. He has not taken the trouble to rise up and do battle with them—he despises them, he knows how absurd, how irrational, how futile are their attempts against him—he therefore laughs at them.

Verses 5 – 6

After he has laughed he shall speak; he needs not smite; the breath of his lips is enough. At the moment when their power is at its height, and their fury most violent, then shall his Word go forth against them. And what is it that he says?—it is a very galling sentence— “Yet,” says he, “despite your malice, despite your tumultuous gatherings, despite the wisdom of your counsels, despite the craft of your lawgivers, ‘yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion’.”

Is not that a grand exclamation! He has already done that which the enemy seeks to prevent. While they are proposing, he has disposed the matter. Jehovah’s will is done, and man’s will frets and raves in vain. God’s Anointed is appointed, and shall not be disappointed. Look back through all the ages of infidelity, hearken to the high and hard things which men have spoken against the Most High, listen to the rolling thunder of earth’s volleys against the Majesty of heaven, and then think that God is saying all the while, “Yet have I set my kimg upon my holy hill of Zion.”

Yet Jesus reigns, yet he sees the travail of his soul, and “his unsuffering kingdom yet shall come” when he shall take unto himself his great power, and reign from the river unto the ends of the earth. Even now he reigns in Zion, and our glad lips sound forth the praises of the Prince of Peace. Greater conflicts may here be foretold, but we may be confident that victory will be given to our Lord and King. Glorious triumphs are yet to come; hasten them, we pray thee, O Lord! It is Zion’s glory and joy that her King is in her, guarding her from foes, and filling her with good things. Jesus sits upon the throne of grace, and the throne of power in the midst of his church. In him is Zion’s best safeguard; let her citizens be glad in him.

“Thy walls are strength, and at thy gates
A guard of heavenly warriors waits;
Nor shall thy deep foundations move,
Fixed on his counsels and his love.Thy foes in vain designs engage;
Against his throne in vain they rage,
Like rising waves, with angry roar,
That dash and die upon the shore.”

Verse 7

This Psalm wears something of a dramatic form, for now another person is introduced as speaking. We have looked into the council-chamber of the wicked, and to the throne of God, and now we behold the Anointed declaring his rights of sovereignty, and warning the traitors of their doom.

God has laughed at the counsel and ravings of the wicked, and now Christ the Anointed himself comes forward, as the Risen Redeemer, “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Romans 1:4. Looking into the angry faces of the rebellious kings, the Anointed One seems to say, “If this sufficeth not to make you silent, ‘I will declare the decree’.” Now this decree is directly in conflict with the device of man, for its tenour is the establishment of the very dominion against which the nations are raving. “Thou art my Son.” Here is a noble proof of the glorious Divinity of our Immanuel. “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?”

What a mercy to have a Divine Redeemer in whom to rest our confidence! “This day have I begotten thee.” If this refers to the Godhead of our Lord, let us not attempt to fathom it, for it is a great truth, a truth reverently to be received, but not irreverently to be scanned. It may be added, that if this relates to the Begotten One in his human nature, we must here also rejoice in the mystery, but not attempt to violate its sanctity by intrusive prying into the secrets of the Eternal God.

The things which are revealed are enough, without venturing into vain speculations. In attempting to define the Trinity, or unveil the essence of Divinity, many men have lost themselves: here great ships have foundered. What have we to do in such a sea with our frail skiffs?

Verses 8 – 12

“Ask of me.” It was a custom among great kings, to give to favoured ones whatever they might ask. (See Esther 5:6; Matthew 14:7.) So Jesus hath but to ask and have. Here he declares that his very enemies are his inheritance. To their face he declares this decree, and “Lo! here,” cries the Anointed One, as he holds aloft in that once pierced hand the sceptre of his power, “He hath given me this, not only the right to be a king, but the power to conquer.” Yes! Jehovah hath given to his Anointed a rod of iron with which he shall break rebellious nations in pieces, and, despite their imperial strength, they shall be but as potters’ vessels, easily dashed into shivers, when the rod of iron is in the hand of the omnipotent Son of God. Those who will not bend must break. Potters’ vessels are not to be restored if dashed in pieces, and the ruin of sinners will be hopeless if Jesus shall smite them.

“Ye sinners seek his grace,
Whose wrath ye cannot bear;
Fly to the shelter of his cross,
And find salvation there.”Verse 10. The scene again changes, and counsel is given to those who have taken counsel to rebel. They are exhorted to obey, and give the kiss of homage and affection to him whom they have hated.
“Be wise.”—It is always wise to be willing to be instructed, especially when such instruction tends to the salvation of the soul. “Be wise now, therefore;” delay no longer, but let good reason weigh with you. Your warfare cannot succeed, therefore desist and yield cheerfully to him who will make you bow if you refuse his yoke. O how wise, how infinitely wise is obedience to Jesus, and how dreadful is the folly of those who continue to be his enemies!

“Serve the Lord with fear;”let reverence and humility be mingled with your service. He is a great God, and ye are but puny creatures; bend ye, therefore, in lowly worship, and let a filial fear mingle with all your obedience to the great Father of the Ages.

“Rejoice with trembling,”—There must ever be a holy fear mixed with the Christian’s joy.

This is a sacred compound, yielding a sweet smell, and we must see to it that we burn no other upon the altar. Fear, without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption. Mark the solemn argument for reconciliation and obedience. It is an awful thing to perish in the midst of sin, in the very way of rebellion; and yet how easily could his wrath destroy us suddenly. It needs not that his anger should be heated seven times hotter; let the fuel kindle but a little, and we are consumed.

O sinner! Take heed of the terrors of the Lord; for “our God is a consuming fire.” Note the benediction with which the Psalm closes:—“Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Have we a share in this blessedness? Do we trust in him? Our faith may be slender as a spider’s thread; but if it be real, we are in our measure blessed. The more we trust, the more fully shall we know this blessedness. We may therefore close the Psalm with the prayer of the apostles:—”Lord, increase our faith.”

    The first Psalm was a contrast between the righteous man and the sinner; the second Psalm is a contrast between the tumultuous disobedience of the ungodly world and the sure exaltation of the righteous Son of God. In the first Psalm, we saw the wicked driven away like chaff; in the second Psalm we see them broken in pieces like a potter’s vessel. In the first Psalm, we beheld the righteous like a tree planted by the rivers of water; and here, we contemplate Christ the Covenant Head of the righteous, made better than a tree planted by the rivers of water, for he is made king of all the islands, and all the heathen bow before him and kiss the dust; while he himself gives a blessing to all those who put their trust in him.

The two Psalms are worthy of the very deepest attention; they are, in fact, the preface to the entire Book of Psalms, and were by some of the ancients, joined into one. They are, however, two Psalms; for Paul speaks of this as the second Psalm. (Acts 13:33.) The first shows us the character and lot of the righteous; and the next teaches us that the Psalms are Messianic, and speak of Christ the Messiah—the Prince who shall reign from the river even unto the ends of the earth. That they have both a far-reaching prophetic outlook we are well assured, but we do not feel competent to open up that matter, and must leave it to abler hands.


EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS [I clipped this section down to notes on verse 12 only. Full text available here.]

Verse 12. “Kiss,” a sign of love among equals: Genesis 33:4; 1 Samuel 20:41; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20. Of subjection in inferiors: 1 Samuel 10:1. Of religious adoration in worshippers: 1 Kings 19:18; Job 31:27. John Richardson, Bishop of Ardagh, 1655.

Verse 12. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” From the Person, the Son, we shall pass to the act (Osculamini, kiss the Son); in which we shall see, that since this is an act which licentious men have depraved (carnal men do it, and treacherous men do it—Judas betrayed his Master by a kiss), and yet God commands this, and expresses love in this; everything that hath, or may be abused, must not therefore be abandoned; the turning of a thing out of the way, is not a taking of that thing away, but good things deflected to ill uses by some, may be by others reduced to their first goodness. Then let us consider and magnify the goodness of God, that hath brought us into this distance, that we may kiss the Son, that the expressing of this love lies in our hands, and that, whereas the love of the church, in the Old Testament, even in the Canticle, went no farther but to the Osculator me (O that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! Canticles 1:1), now, in the Christian church, and in the visitation of a Christian soul, he hath invited us, enables us to kiss him, for he is presentially amongst us. This leads us to give an earnest persuasion and exhortation to kiss the Son, with all those affections, which we shall there find to be expressed in the Scriptures, in that testimony of true love,a holy kiss. But then, lest that persuasion by love should not be effectual and powerful enough to us, we shall descend from that duty, to the danger, from love, to fear, “lest he be angry;” and therein see first, that God, who is love, can be angry; and then, that this God who is angry here, is the Son of God, he that hath done so much for us, and therefore in justice may be angry; he that is our Judge, and therefore in reason we are to fear his anger: and then, in a third branch, we shall see how easily this anger departs—a kiss removes it.

Verse 12. “Kiss the Son.” That is, embrace him, depend upon him all these ways: as thy kinsman, as thy sovereign; at thy going, at thy coming; at thy reconciliation, in the truth of religion in thyself, in a peaceable unity with the church, in a reverent estimation of those men, and those means, whom he sends. Kiss him, and be not ashamed of kissing him; it is that which the spouse desired, “I would kiss thee, and not be despised.” Canticles 7:1. If thou be despised for loving Christ in his Gospel, remember that when David was thought base, for dancing before the ark, his way was to be more base. If thou be thought frivolous for thrusting in at service, in the forenoon, be more frivolous, and come again in the afternoon: “Tanto major requies, quanto ab amore Jesu nulla requies;” (Gregory) “The more thou troublest thyself, or art troubled by others for Christ, the more peace thou hast in Christ.” . . . . “Lest he be angry.” Anger, as it is a passion that troubles, and disorders, and discomposes a man, so it is not in God; but anger, as it is a sensible discerning of foes from friends, and of things that conduce, or disconduce to his glory, so it is in God. In a word, Hilary hath expressed it well:“Poena patientis, ira decernentis;” “Man’s suffering is God’s anger.” When God inflicts such punishments as a king justly incensed would do, then God is thus angry. Now here, our case is heavier; it is not this great, and almighty, and majestical God, that may be angry—that is like enough; but even the Son, whom we must kiss, may be angry; it is not a person whom we consider merely as God, but as man; may not as man neither, but a a worm, and no man, and he may be angry, and angry to our ruin. . . . “Kiss the Son,” and he will not be angry; if he be, kiss the rod, and he will be angry no longer—love him lest he be: fear him when he is angry: the preservative is easy, and so is the restorative too: the balsamum of this kiss is all, to suck spiritual milk out of the left breast, as well as out of the right, to find mercy in his judgments, reparation in his ruins, feasts in his lents, joy in his anger. From Sermons of John Donne, D.D., Dean of St. Paul’s,1621-1631.

Verse 12. “Kiss the Son.” To make peace with the Father, kiss the Son. “Let him kiss me,” was the church’s prayer. Canticles 1:2. Let us kiss him — that be our endeavour. Indeed, the Son must first kiss us by his mercy, before we can kiss him by our piety. Lord, grant in these mutual kisses and interchangeable embraces now, that we may come to the plenary wedding supper hereafter; when the choir of heaven, even the voices of angels, shall sing epithalamiums, nupital songs, at the bridal of the spouse of the Lamb. Thomas Adams.

Verse 12. “If his wrath be kindled but a little;” the Hebrew is, if his nose or nostril be kindled but a little; the nostril, being an organ of the body in which wrath shows itself, is put for wrath itself. Paleness and snuffling of the nose are symptoms of anger. In our proverbials, to take a thing in snuff, is to take it in anger. Joseph Caryl.

Verse 12. “His wrath.” Unspeakable must the wrath of God be when it is kindled fully, since perdition may come upon the kindling of it but a little. John Newton.

Glad you visited,

-Justin

Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Treasury of David is in the public domain.