Sunday, March 26, 2017

Final events 001


A study of Revelation19:11-16




John in Revelation 19 describes the final event of the Second Coming of Christ. This is not to be confused with the rapture of the church. The rapture has already taken place, and they are not the same event. They are different in these key areas to name a few:[1]

·         The rapture involves a catching away of the saints meet the Lord in the air; the second coming He returns to earth (1 Thess. 4:19; cf. Zech. 14:4; Acts 1:11).

·         It is our view that the rapture takes place before the time of the tribulation, the second coming at the end of the tribulation.

·         The rapture is a message of comfort; the second advent has a message of judgment (1 Thess. 4:20; Rev. 19:15).

·         The rapture affect believers only; while the second coming and an effect on all men (1 Thess. 4:15-16; Rev 19:15).

·         The rapture transfigures the saints to imperishable bodies; but evidently at His second coming there is no transfiguration. At least, it is not indicated in Scripture.

Bible students, scholars, and theologians believe that the second coming of Christ is to occur at the end of the tribulation and before the millennium.

The starting point of the at final events on earth is the second coming of Christ. His coming a second time is a necessity. There are five reasons for it:

·         To rescue of God’s people.

·         To judge the world.

·         To display His glory.

·         To fulfill His promises.

·         To conquer all evil, human and demonic.

Revelation 19:11-16 is the key passage on the second coming of Christ. The starting point of the last events of Scripture and eschatology. It is also the last coming of Christ in this present evil age. However, it is not the end for it leads to other events, i.e. the last great conflict, the Millennium, White Throne judgment, etc. There are five elements revealed about the second coming of Christ:

His Appearing (19:11). 

“I saw heaven open” is visionary language. John has referred to it at least 3 times before in this book—4:1; 11:19; 15:5. They each reveal a heavenly scene, involving the throne, or temple, and heavenly beings, and God. Each reveals and features judgement on the earth.[2]

In Revelation 19:11 the heaven open to reveal the coming Warrior-Victor. Jesus Christ as Warrior-Victor brings judgment on evil and the evil ones and vindication for the believing ones. It should be noted that Scripture teaches:

·         The return is personal (cf. Luke 21:27)

·         The return is visible (cf. Rev. 1:7, Matt 24:27)

·         The return will be sudden, without warning (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2)

·         The return will be powerful revealing His glory (Matt 24:30)

It reveals the origin of His coming out of heaven to wage war. MacLeod reminds us in those days, horses were not just farm animals, race horses, not modes of transportation; but were thought of as military machines.[3] They were primary used in war. The figure here reinforces the picture that He comes as warrior. The picture here is in contrast to two things:

·         His first coming to earth and entering Jerusalem upon a donkey; indicating humility.

·         Another white horse and rider in Revelation 6:2. This rider is not the Messiah (Christ), but a counterfeit. Thomas tells us:

“First in sequence among the signs spoken of earlier by Christ was the emergence of many ‘imposter’ christs…. This conclusion agrees with the character of the other three riders.”[4] These riders bring evil to the earth; Christ in Revelation 19 brings victory over evil.

The character of the Warrior-Victor is “Faithful and True” (19:11). This builds on the character of Christ which is a common theme (cf. 3:14; 16:7). He judges in righteousness (cf. Psa. 7:11; 9:4,8; Rev. 16:7). His justice is based on His character of righteousness and truth. Christ is faithful to His word, which is true. He is true in His judgments. Faithful has the thought of trustworthiness: He is trustworthy. True has the concept of truthful in character and in action. The Warrior-Victor has the character that is sharp contrast to the false or anti-Christ, who is a deceiver and a liar. Christ comes to carry out a war that is just and true against evil. Osborne notes, “The whole theme of lex talionis (law of retribution) that has been so prevalent in the book culminates in this passage.”[5] He will hand out what is due. Christ is faithful and true to His Word, will judge the wicked, and vindicate the saints.

His Appearance (19:12-13).

Here John gives us an objective description of the rider of the white horse. It is the Lord Jesus Christ coming in judgment. His appearance is described with the following elements:

·         His eyes are “a flame of fire.” The Greek has the idea of a raging fire. It enforces the concept of the second coming of Christ as the avenging one upon evil. “It evokes Christ’s role as divine judge.”[6] The phrase is used in Rev. 1:14 and 2:18-23. In each case judgment is in view. Daniel 10:6 is the prophecy on which this is based. Some see discernment as the major element of the phrase.[7] While I grant that discernment is an element of judgment; the context suggests the concept of judgment as the major element behind the phrase. However, the vision involves a penetration factor by which discernment is made,[8] but the idea does not override the emphasis on judgment of God; rather it reinforces it (cf. Mal 3:2).

·         His head has many diadems (19:12). He no longer wears a crown of thrones. A diadem is a crown of royality.  These types of crowns are not limited to Christ; but found on the dragon (Rev. 12:3) and the beast (Rev. 13:1). However, the crowns are in contrast and different from those of Christ.  Christ and the saints are four wearing stephanos; the victors crown (cf. 14:14). The dragon, the beast, and Christ here are a ruler’s crown.[9] “His multiple emblems of royalty are appropriate because He is King of kings,” says Thomas.[10] It denotes His all-encompassing sovereignty and authority. While Christ here wears many ruler’s crown, he also has a victor’s crown. The victors crown is never spoken of in reference to the beast or dragon.   

·         His unknown name (19:12). He has a name written on Him that no one knows except Himself. This is a perfect passive participle indicating the name was given to Him in the past, but never revealed.[11] This statement has spurred all kinds of speculation. It is best not to do so. Although Beale suggests it is connected with the new name given to Israel and points to Isa. 62:2-3, in connection with Isa. 63:1-3.[12] Upon the coming of going into the kingdom Israel is given a new name to indicate their intimate relationship with God (Isa 62:4-5).  This unknown name was unrevealed to the readers, and it is not revealed to us. The name is incomprehensible to us. It will not be revealed until He comes in power in the end times. Mounce suggests it “expresses the mystery of His person.”[13]

·         What He wears— “a robe dipped in blood” (19:13). There have been a number of ways the reference to blood has been understood including His own blood; the blood of the martyrs; or the blood of the wicked. The context however, is very clear; it is His coming in judgment of the wicked (cf. 19:11) This description is of the Warrior-King coming in judgment. It is natural, therefore, to take the bloody robe in connection with this judgment. One should not overlook Isa 63:1-3 in this regard. At the time of His coming in judgment He will tread the winepress with His enemies. His garment is stained from the process. Notice he treads it alone. The work of judgment is His alone. Walvoord observes, “Christ as the slain Lamb in Revelation speaks of redemption by blood; here blood represents divine judgment upon wicked men.”[14]

·         His known name— “and His name is called The Word of God.” This is a name in addition to the unknow name (cf. 19:12). This ties the coming warrior to the human Jesus, who was the Word (John 1:1, 14). The word called is perfect passive, thus it indicates “having been called.” The same Jesus who came is the same Jesus who is the coming one.  It is the same person who has the name of The Word of God.

His Army (19:14)

The rider on the white horse, the Word of God, the warrior-victor brings with Him an army. We are told three things about this army:

·         It is a heavenly army: “the armies which are in heaven.” Like much in the Revelation, the identification of the army is open to debate. The identification of the army has three views—angelic beings; the saints; and a combination of both. The view that these are angelic seem to be supported by both the Old and New Testament. An angelic army is mentioned in Psalm 103:20-21 and associated with the second coming and the kingdom (cf. Matthew 13:41; 16:27; 24:30-31; 2 Thess. 1:7). This is in concert with the most basic and primitive subject of prophecy. “These are angelic host who are accustomed to make war, and fight against Satan and his host.”[15] It is hard to argue otherwise.

·         Yet, most seem to take this as the saints. This views argues more from the book itself. Their arguments are mainly two: First, those who come with Christ are those who are “called, chosen, and faithful (Rev. 17:14).[16] We cannot overlook the book of Daniel concerning this. Daniel 7:21-22 that judgment is given to the saints of the most High. The saints of the Old Testament are the believers of Israel. Second, in Rev. 19:8, the bride is dressed in “fine linen, bright and clean.” The bride wears the same clothing as the army. It also indicates that this relationship are works related, for righteousness is not reckoned by faith, but works earned; it refers to righteous acts.[17] Still many associate and identify the bride as the church based on Ephesians 5:22-32.[18] However, there are significant differences that must be pointed out:

o    The righteousness in Ephesians is not work-based as in Rev. 19. It is redemptive and sanctified righteousness which comes about by the work of Christ. In Rev. 19:7 these make themselves ready. It is by their work.

o    Although the marriage imagery is used by Paul, nowhere is the church specifically called the bride of Christ, or wife for that matter.

o    The church is identified specifically as “members of His body.” This connects the church as part of the groom. He is the head, we are the body of Christ.

His Activities (19:15)

It is clear that at the second coming, Christ is coming to conquer evil. He is the warring Messiah. This verse is clearly couched in Old Testament prophecy, which is climaxed in the activities of His coming. These activities fulfill prophecy. Notice the prophecies:

·         Isaiah 49:2 predicts that the Messiah is coming the “mouth like a sharp sword.”

·         Isaiah 11:4 predicts the Messiah will “smite the nations.”

·         Psalm 2:9 predicts His smiting of the nations.

·         Isaiah 63:1-3 is alluded to the coming to carry out wrath.

The overwhelming voice of prophecy is that the coming of Messiah is to judge the world of the wicked and evil. To vanquish them and set up His earthly kingdom.  

There are three main activities that fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament:

·         “He may [should—KJV] strike down the nations.” Strike down is a strong word and indicates inflicting a fatal blow. While the word nations can mean gentiles, it is not used in Revelation in that context, which shows that the unbelieving of the Jewish nation is included (Rev. 2:26; 5:9; 10:11; 11:2, 9, 18; 12:5, 13:7; 14:6, 8; 15:4; 16:19; 17:15; 18:3, 23; 20:3, 8; 21:24, 26; 22:2). They are slain because they are judged according to the righteous word, which is likened by John as the sharp sword (cf. Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). Paul confirms this in 2 Thess. 2:8. It speaks of His irresistible power. Interestingly, these ones are slain twice. There is the first death which speaks of physical death (Rev. 19:21). They will also experience the second death, cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:12).

·         “He will rule them with a rod of iron” (cf. Ps. 110:1-2; Rev. 2:27). The emphasis is on the one who will rule. The intensive pronoun (Himself or He) enforces the Messiah’s personal, unassisted role in his victory over His enemies.[19] The word rule has the idea of herding, nurturing, tending as a Shepard.[20] The word rod can mean not only a rod, but a staff, or scepter. The picture is a shepherd that “guards His flock by destroying the predators that would harm it.”[21] It reminds one of the prophecy of Numbers 24:17-19. By the rod in the shepard’s hand has a twofold purpose: First, to care and lead the flock. Second, to defend the flock from raiding beasts who want to destroy the flock. Beside destroying the beast and his armies, He will rule nations as an inherence to rule (Rev. 12:5). It speaks of His protecting power.

·         “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” This image combines two concepts—the winepress (cf. Rev. 14:19) and the cup of wrath (14:10).[22] The word He specifies a personal identity and act—Christ Himself treads the winepress. It is at the winepress God will carry out His fierce anger. The word anger or wrath is found 13 times in Revelation 6 to 19. It speaks of His powerful judgment against what He hates. Mounce correctly declares: “Any view of God that eliminates judgment and his hatred of sin in the interest of an emasculated doctrine of sentimental affection finds no support in the strong and virile realism of the Apocalypse.”[23]

His Authority (19:16).

He has all authority for He is the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. This tile is written on His robe and thigh. It is a title already applied to Christ (Rev.17:14). It is the title of deity. It carries the idea of being supreme; that no King or Lord is above Him. His authority is above all. It speaks of His universal sovereignty.

Jesus Christ is coming again. The Apostle Paul tells us that His appearing will come at the proper time as KINGS OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, for He alone is eternal and dwells in light. “To Him be honor and eternal dominion!” (1 Timothy 6:15).


[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, THINGS TO COME, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1969], 206-207; C.F. Baker, DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY [Grand Rapids MI, Grace Bible College, 1971], 585.
[2]  G.K. Beale, REVELATION: A SHORTER COMMENTARY, [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 2015], 409.
[3]  David J. MacLeod, “The First “Last Thing”: The Second Coming of Christ,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, April-June 1999.
[4]  Robert L. Thomas, REVELATION: AN EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY, 2 Volumes, [Chicago IL, Moody Press, 1992], 1:423.
[5]  Grant R. Osborne, BECNT: REVELATION, [Grand Rapids MI, Baker, 2002], 680.
[6]  G. K. Beale, REVELATION, 410.
[7]  David J. MacLeod, “The Second Coming of Christ,” BIB-SAC, April 1999, 212.
[8]  Grant R. Osborne, BECNT: REVELATION, 680-681.
[9]  Ibid, 681.
[10] Robert L. Thomas, REVELATION, 2:395.
[11] Tony Garland, A TESTAMONY OF JESUS CHRIST, Electronic media, Spirit & Truth. Org., 2004, 2:92.
[12] G.K. Beale, REVELATION, 410.
[13] Robert H. Mounce, NICNT: THE BOOK OF REVELATION, [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 1998], 353.
[14]  John F. Walvoord, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, [Chicago IL, Moody Press, 1974], 277.
[15] E.W. Bullinger, THE APOCALYPSE, [London, Samuel Bagster & Sons, reprint 1972], 600.
[16]  Interestingly, Bullinger omits any reference to who these are. He simply says they are God’s chosen forces.  THE APOCALYPSE, 545.   
[17]  The word righteous is dikaiomata, meaning righteous deeds or acts and in the plural. It is clearly related to human works. James C. Healan II, THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB, [Grand Rapids MI, BIBLE DOCTRINES PUBLICATION, 1992], 41.
[18] John F. Walvoord, REVELATION, 272.
[19]  Robert L. Thomas, REVELATION, 2:389.
[20]  Tony Garland, A TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST, 2:95.
[21]  David J. MacLeod, “The Second Coming of Christ,” 217.
[22]  Robert L. Thomas, REVELATION, 2:390.
[23]  Robert H. Mounce, NICNT: REVELATION, 365.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review--Commentary on Psalms #1


Allen P. Ross, A COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, Volume 1, Grands Rapids MI, Kregel, 2011.



The is the first volume of three, covering Psalms 1-41. Ross is an outstanding expositor, and the purpose of this commentary is to focus on exposition which is the aim of exegesis. As such it is written for students, teachers, and Pastor. The work is reader friendly, concise, understandable, yet technical in a way that that is not burdensome. His scholarship is outstanding, but not heavy. He writes in concert with the text, although he does not void or omit modernization where necessary, nor textual criticism.



He opens this volume with a substantial introduction (180 pages). His first major point in the introduction is on Ancient versions of the text consisting of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and as much as possible he uses the Masoretic Text. Other parts of the introduction that are especially helpful are:

The introduction on Interpreting Biblical Poetry is an excellent explanation of poetry and how to understand it. He explains the figures of speech and the important aspects of poetry in the Psalms. The student will be edified by this chapter.

An introduction of the Literary Forms and Functions in the Psalms—mainly lament, praise, songs, royal, and wisdom.

He has a chapter on worship, and another on theology. His words on worship should be taken to heart.

He explains his methodology in the last chapter of the introduction on Exposition of the Psalms.



The depth of his commentary is rich, balanced, and valuable. Each chapter has Text and its variants; The translation is his own, composition and context; and commentary in the exposition form. He does a very good job of exegesis, grammar, and syntax of the text. He clearly explains terms, phrases, and idioms found in the Psalms. He outlines the text in accord with the exegesis of the text, which is logical and useful. He ends each chapter with comments on its message and application.



One cannot go wrong with this commentary and all three volumes should be in your study. It is insightful, helpful, and challenging. It will motivate and cause one to think as he works his way through the Psalms. It is well worth having and one cannot help but benefit from this work. It is one of the best resources you can have on Psalms.



I received this book from Kregel Academic in return for a review but was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Depravity


Thoughts on Depravity



It is no secret that Scripture teaches that man is a sinner (Rom. 3:23). Depravity does not mean that man is as bad as he can be; rather it is man is as bad off as he can be. Man may be relativity good, but still be lost because of sin. The doctrine confirms two things: First, it looks at man from God’s perspective. Second, our goodness is insufficient to save us from our sin. We are all under sin (Gal. 3:22) regardless how good, moral, and generous we may be in our life.



We are under sin in three ways: First, personal sin. This is sin we commit by the exercise of our own will. We all have a degree of ungodliness and disobedience and transgressions that we personally commit. Second, there is the sin nature. We are all inclined to sin because of our nature. It is our natural desire to sin. The law of sin dwells in us (Rom. 7:25). None of us are inherit righteous (Rom 3:10-18). Third, we are in the state of sin (Rom. 11:32). Our depravity comes from personal acts of sin, our sin nature, and our state of sin. We are under condemnation because of our depravity (Rom. 1:18. John 3:18). No man can escape it by his own method. We cannot save ourselves. Depravity will not allow it. Because of depravity we are dead in our transgression and sin.



Jesus Christ is the answer to our depravity; not our goodness, religion, church, or sacraments. Salvation comes only by the person of Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf at the cross. “Now there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10). It is by faith that His righteousness is credited to us (Rom. 4:5). It is by grace through faith that we are justified and have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We are justified by His blood, being saved from the wrath to come (Rom. 5;9). It comes as a gift (Eph. 2:8). This gift is received by faith. By receiving His gift of salvation by faith, He has “made us alive together with Christ” (Rom. 2:5). Salvation is not what we achieve; but what we receive by grace through faith.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: Spirituality of Paul


THE SPIRITUALITY OF PAUL by Leslie T. Hardin [Grand Rapids MI, Kregel, 2016] 190 pages.



Review by Pastor Jim Gray

The study of spirituality is not an easy one to grasp and define. Hardin’s work has some redeeming features on the subject. He sees Paul’s spirituality as a practical partnership with God in which Paul becomes more Christlike.  Spirituality is made up of nine disciplines:
The two main elements are
Prayer
Evangelism
In addition, they are;
Disciple making
Corporate worship     
Studying the Word of God
Holiness                                                                                  
Caring and building up of other believers
Spiritual gifts to edify the body (i.e. The church)
Perseverance during suffering.
All of these elements are important and should be considered, although they do not carry the same weight.

His views are colored by the New Perspective of Paul which he has clearly bought into. Yet, the book has merit to aid in thinking on spirituality. The author seems to write on Paul’s personal view, but omits any strong doctrinal viewpoint. I would consider this work more subjective, than objective. The book overall is creditable for consideration. As to readability, I struggled at times. However, it is worth reading and should be considered by those who are studying the subject.

I received this book free from the publisher to review. It did not have to be a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.



Monday, February 27, 2017

Study of Colossians 036




CONCLUSION OF THE COLOSSIAN EPISTLE 4:7-18



This is one of Paul’s longer conclusions in the epistles. It is personal and denotes a number of friendships and co-labors with Paul. The conclusions structure is a building of assertions and climaxing with certain exhortations. These elements are common at the end of Paul’s epistles (1 Cor. 16:19-24; Romans 16:1-23; Ephesians 6:21-24). The conclusion entails four elements:

The coming messengers (4:7-9).

There are two persons being sent to them as Paul’s representatives: Tychicus and Onesimus.  Tychicus was an Asian believer, and referred to 5 times in the New Testament (here, Acts 20:4; Eph. 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12; eventually was in Rome with Paul. He also acted as a courier of epistles to the churches, as he does for the Colossians. He was a trusted worker with Paul. He is described as a (1) fellow-servant, (2) a beloved brother, (3) and a faithful servant. These features indicate he was a man of integrity and reliable in carrying out his duty. These features are to be a keynote for every believer, no manner how he serves the Lord. We are to walk in the sphere of Christ, fellow members of the church, the body of Christ, and in mutual fellowship with Christ and each other.

His purpose was to inform the believers of Paul’s affairs and situation (4:8). He was commissioned for this purpose, thus, his coming is official. The purpose was twofold: (1) to give information about Paul and the circumstances. (2) To encourage their hearts. Encourage is a key concept of fellowship. It is encouraging to know God is working in spite of outward circumstances. 

Joining him in this purpose is Onesimus, one of their own (v9). In this we learn:

·         He is faithful and beloved among Paul and his companions. At his conversion, he went on to live up to his name--useful.

·          He helps and supports the members of the ministry team. In contrast, he is not called a minister. One does not have to be a professional minister to be a successful servant and team member of the ministry (contra Moo and Dunn).

·         He is a resident of Colossae. The phrase “one of you” goes beyond residence, and indicate he is a believer like they are. It gives the foundation for their mutual fellowship, not based on class, but their relationship to Christ and their union together in Christ.. In the church the body of Christ there is no slave or free (3:11).

·         He is a visible example of equality in the church, in spite of differences among its members.

By this action, Paul is revealing his love and concern for the members of the body of Christ. These two servants are illustrations of serving the Lord in humility. Servants are freed from the past and given liberty to serve the Lord. The past is forgiven, as seen from the fact that the offence of Philemon is never given. Nor is he to seek the church to confess his past sin. His faithlessness of the past was done, over, and transformed into faithfulness.

Greetings bestowed 4:10-17

Greetings are now sent to the Colossians. It is interesting that the ones named are Jews and Gentile. There are three Jewish believers named first in the greetings (4:10-11). They are:

  • Aristarchus (4:10). He is identified as a fellow-prisoner. The word is sunaichmalotos, and literally refers to a prisoner of war. This is not clear from the text. Most take it in a metaphorical sense of a prisoner. He was incarcerated with Paul in prison. He was also a captive of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14). He is first mentioned with Gaius who were seized during the riot in Ephesians (Acts 19:29). He was from Thessalonica (20:4; 27:2). He was a prisoner who accompanied Paul to Rome. Tradition tells us he was martyred by Nero.[1]
  • Mark, “the cousin of Barnabas” (4:10). He was a longtime Jewish Christian worker (cf. Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13), although the relation was bumpy at times including a split (Acts 15: 37-39). Reconciliation must have taken place, In the end, Mark was profitable to Paul for the ministry (2 Tim. 4:11). He instructs the Colossians to welcome him if he comes to them. John Mark became the author of the gospel bearing his name, probably from Rome. We know he had a close relation with Peter as well (1 Pet, 5:13). Today we would call his ministry multicultural.
  • Jesus who is called Justus” (4:11). This is the only mention of Jesus Justus in Scripture. Like Paul, he had a Jewish name and a Roman name. We know very little about him but what is revealed here in Colossians. First, he is Jewish, being from the circumcision. Second, their labor “for the kingdom of God. There is some debate on how to understand the phrase. Most seem to take it as referring to the furtherance of the kingdom.[2] The Greek proposition (eis) is used with the accusative case, and denotes motion to or toward an object as future for the purpose of reaching it.[3]  It is speaking of the goal of their service. It is unto the end of the kingdom. This is normal for Paul which looks upon the kingdom in a two-way prospect—present/not yet. We must observe that the kingdom, in generic terms, is present in the church, the body of Christ (cf. 1:13).[4] The church are members of the heavenly kingdom as Israel are in the earthly kingdom. It is one kingdom of God with divisions. Third, he, along with the others, were an encouragement to Paul. These men, although of the circumcision had a ministry with and to Paul. The word encouragement has the idea of exhortation, consolation, and solace. It is in the passive voice indicating that they had ministered to Paul. Ministry is always mutual, even between the Jews and the Gentiles, as it is between members of the body of Christ.
Now Paul sends greetings on behalf of gentile believers. Like there were 3 Jews who Paul singled out, now he does so with 3 gentiles. They were:

  • Epaphras (4:12). He is a key figure in the church at Colossae. He is a leader in that church. This may be the reason the most space is given to him among the others. He is one of them or more literal: “one out of you.” It has the idea of coming from Colossae. His position is being a “slave of Christ Jesus.” The word slave or servant is with the genitive case indicating ownership and possession by Christ. He belonged completely to Christ (as does every true believer). Paul sends greetings on his behalf. He was active in service, especially prayer. He may have been absent from them; but he had not forgot them. He “labored fervently” (KJV) or “earnestly.” Paul uses the athletic term here (agonidsomai), where we get the English word agonize. It denotes physical energy being exercised. The metaphor is that of athletic struggling in a contest. The word carries the idea of intensity and persistence. It is also in the present tense implying that it is a continuous habit. Lightfoot translates it “wrestling.”[5] He was a prayer warrior that agonized in his prayers for this church. These prayers were intercessory. The purpose of this wrestling in prayer is that they “may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (4:12). To stand denotes standing for the truth of the Word. It denotes standing firm or fixed. It speaks of doctrinal stability. He wants them “fully assured.” The Greek word (plerophoreo) when used of a person has the meaning of being fully convinced (cf. Rom. 4:21; 14:5). The object of this assurance is in the will of God. Paul confirms the deep concern he had for believers Thus, in conclusion we see Epaphras as a good student of the Apostle Paul in the following ways:

    • He is an example of obedience to Paul’s exhortation in Col. 4:2.
    • Like Paul, he strives as a cost of the ministry (Col. 1:29; 2:1).
    • Like Paul, he is convinced of the truth of the Word and will of God.

  • Luke (4:14). Paul brings out two facts about Luke. First, he is listed as a Gentile, not a Jew. While some doubt we can know the ethnic origin from this passage.[6] The ethnic of Luke seems somewhat certain by what we know of him. It is the natural inference of the text that he was a gentile. This would make Luke the only Gentile writer of a Gospel in the New Testament. The context seems to sustain this. The first three are named as being of the circumcision [Jews] (4:11), while the second group are gentiles. Luke is squarely included in the second group between the other gentiles. The main objection to this is that Luke had an intimate knowledge of the Old Testament. Pointing to a Jewish background. However, that does not dismiss the idea that he was a gentile. As a gentile “God-fearer” he would have been taught the truth of the Old Testament.[7] With a “God-fearing” background, he would still have the knowledge of the Old Testament to be the author of Luke-Acts (especially if they were written to a gentile: Theophilus). As the author of Acts, he shows he is a full participant in Paul’s gentile ministry (Acts 16:8-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). The context gives us enough information to infer Luke was gentile by birth. Second, he was a physician. He may well be considered Paul’s private doctor presuming to minister to Paul’s health concerns. At the end, only Luke was with him (2 Tim. 4:9).
  • Demas (4:14). Only his presence is recorded. Silence concerning him is most noted here. Some say it indicates an uneasiness of Paul toward Demas. Demas’ faith may already be in question. However, the text gives us no hint of such. It is true that in a few years Demas had forsaken his duties as a believer and became a lover of the world (2 Tim. 4:9-10). However, at this point he is still a fellow-worker in the ministry of Paul (cf. Philemon 24).
Final instructions to the church are now given (4:15-17). There are three clear-cut instruction to the Colossians:

Greet those in your sister church at Laodicea and Nympha, in whose house they met (4:15). The church had no fancy building, it was a true fellowship gathering in a home for worship and praise. This was a mark of a first century church. They had no permanent church building. Lightfoot observes, “There is no clear example of a separate building set apart for Christian worship within the limits of the Roman empire before the third century, thought apartments in private houses might be especially devoted to this purpose.”[8]
 Read this letter to those in Laodicea (4:16). Mark the instruction here is (1) to read the present letter to them. (2) Read the letter that is coming to them. The reading is to be public reading in the churches. The problem here is that we do not have an epistle to the Laodiceans. Suggestion have been made, but not solved. However, the text does not state it was a letter addressed specifically to them. It does state that Paul is the writer and that it is in possession of the church of Laodicea.  The best guess is that it refers to the epistle we know as the Ephesians. It has long been held that the original text did not have the address “to the Ephesians,” but was added later and is not in the early Greek text. A point much debated. As such it is a general letter, written to be given and read among several churches. They point to the fact that it is the least personal of Paul’s epistles. Although this view is not held by many holding rather that the phrase “to the Ephesians” are included into the text.[9] Identification of this letter in Laodicea is a mystery, which cannot dogmatically be declared. The instruction is clear and beyond question, they are to read both letters.  
To Archippus, heed the ministry (4:17). He is also mentioned in Philemon 2. It is speculated that he was the son of Philemon and Apphia. It would be natural for Paul to mention the son. It is clear he has a ministry. Paul encourages him to fulfill it. Interesting his name means “house ruler.”

In conclusion, he gives a personal note (4:18). Paul notes that he is writing this in his own hand. It is his salutation to them. He makes a simple request for them to remember his imprisonment. And sends his blessings of grace. We are saved by grace alone and walk by the principle of grace. Grace is the essence of Christian living!





[1]  S.F. Hunter, “Aristarchus,” ISBE, 1:290. 
[2] Murray Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 178.
[3] THE COMPANION BIBLE, Appendix 104, 149.
[4]  Earnest Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 190.
[5]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 237.
[6]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 256.
[7]  W.W. Gasque, “Luke,” ISBE, 3:179.
[8]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 242.
[9]  See, Harold W. Hoehner, EPESIANS: AN EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY, [Grand Rapids MI, Baker, 2002] Excursus 1, 144-148.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature






INTERPRETING APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE: AN EXEGETICAL HANDBOOK by Richard A. Taylor, Grand Rapids MI, Kregel Academic, 2016.



This is a continuation of Handbook for Old Testament Exegesis; thus, it centers on the apocalyptic of the Old Testament.  As such it focusses upon Daniel and Joel. I am disappointed that he says little about other apocalyptic sections of the Old Testament (Ezekiel, Zachariah). The book is divided into the following sections:

·         What is Apocalyptic Literature? This is the best chapter of the whole book. It deals with definition and with both its distinctiveness and its problems with defining the word. The word has been a problem to accurately define, but he does a good job (page 33). He holds that apocalypse is a literary genre; is rich in angelology; and has to do with the eschaton.

·         Major themes in Apocalyptic Literature. Since it is both is represented in the Old Testament, intertestamental Jewish literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He spends time with all three. The O.T. is seen to have sowed the seeds of the genre, especially Daniel, but found in other prophets as well. It is extended to new heights in the intertestamental Jewish literature. This is somewhat helpful in understand the character of this genre, but with mixed results. He characterizes the genre in broad terms, too broad at times. I agree that the fundamental feature of Apocalyptic nature is written expression and revelatory in content.  The chapter in my opinion sees little difference between Biblical Apocalyptic literature and secular. This to me is a major flaw in the work. I see three conflicts between the two—pseudonymous authorship (not true of most of the Biblical apocalyptic literature); pessimism,  optimism; and the presence of ethnical demands. These conflicts are overlooked. 

·         Guide for Interpretation (chapters 3-4). These are two helpful chapters no matter how you view the genre. In chapter 3 it centers upon preparing for interpretation. It mostly defines figures of speech which the genre is heavily burdened with. He gives a wide variety of tools to use. It relies mostly on the original Hebrew text and recourses of Hebrew language. Chapter 4 gives guidelines for interpretation. He gives six clear and general guidelines. There are two I consider the most valuable: The grammatical-historical approach, and the limits of figurative language.  He clearly points out a warning against reckless speculations that come by over attention to detail.

·         Proclaiming Apocalyptic Literature. In other words, this chapter is on preaching from this type of literature. He strongly advocates its preaching. He gives good sound features of doing so, using a good example from Daniel 7.

·         The last chapter is on sample texts.

·         An appendix of the history of this type of literature.



This volume is worth having and gives a sound survey of the subject, in spite of what I see as weaknesses. It will be helpful, but to do a more detailed study, one will need to supplement it with more advance works. However, this will help in understanding the basics of the subject and its history.

                                                                    

I received this book free from the publisher to review. It did not have to be a positive review.The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.