Sunday, June 19, 2011


The book of Revelation is addressed: “to the seven churches in Asia” (1:4), their names are listed in Rev. 1:11. Why did John write to these seven churches, when we know for certain there were other churches in Asia (for example Colosse)? Some feel that these churches are the historical ones that represents all churches of all ages. They limit the interpretation to the first century. The tone of the book looks beyond the first century to the Second Coming of Christ and the events surrounding it. Others feel these churches will come into existence again during the great tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ, and the letters are written to them. This is speculation since we have no evidence that they will come into existence and they lay in ruins today. God can surely resurrect these cities and churches, but at this point it is speculation. There is no doubt that these churches did exist when John wrote this book. It should not be doubted that this letter was sent to the churches addressed. It is far better to hold that these historical churches are representative, but representative of what?

The Historical school (as well as many futurists) sees these churches as representing stages of church history—Ephesus being the apostolic age and ending with Laodicea being the last age of the church. Again this is speculative. The people in the dark ages, the reformers of 1500’s, as well as Bible students today have said they are the lukewarm Laodicea church or the last age of the church. We know this cannot be true. This view has called for a realignment of the churches to reflect new historical situations as time goes on. No, it is better to hold that John wrote to real contemporary churches with the real problem of suffering and persecution staring them in the face. All the works of the prophets writings have been directed toward real people with real problems at the time of authorship, but much of what they wrote looked beyond their times. Revelation is no exception to this prophetic principle.

I see these churches as representing two things: (1) In general, the type of churches that have existed throughout the history of the church, and still exist, especially in troubled times. These churches in John’s day are beginning to feel the wrath of Roman power and persecution, which foreshadowed the tribulation. (2) They represent primarily the tribulation churches that will go through the coming great and terrible day of wrath. Much of the language addressed to these churches is Jewish in character.  The terms (such as the synagogue of Satan, Satan’s throne, I will make war with them with the sword of my mouth) pertain in tone and content to the Great Tribulation period. After the Rapture of the Church, the body of Christ (1 Thess. 4), God will again deal with the nation Israel (Rom. 9-11) and the nations. It is the tribulation church that will face the wrath of Satan and the great time of suffering. What John writes is applicable to the church of his day and ours, but the primary representation and interpretation belongs to churches of the Tribulation and Kingdom.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Object of Paul’s Prayer for Believers

Ephesians 1:18b-19a

In this Ephesians prayer for believers, Paul prays so that we will know and understand certain things. He now presents three parallel clauses describing the purposes of the enlightenment or illumination he wants believers to experience. Each phrase describes an aim or purpose of the Spirit’s work. This is brought out by the word “what” in each clause.

 “So that you will know what is the hope of His calling…” (1:18b).
The aim
[1] or purpose of the Spirit’s work is to enlighten in the knowledge of the hope of His calling. The word for know is eidenai, meaning to perceive, to comprehend or apprehend, to recognize. The emphasis of this knowledge is on hope. The hope is the key concept in this phrase. The word for hope is elpis, meaning a confident or sure expectation. It has the sc\ense of assurance. “Hope rests on faith in the act of salvation (Romans 8:24-25) and is sustained by the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27)” notes Bultmann.[2] Hope here is objective, not subjective. It is built upon expectation, trust in God, and patient waiting for consummation. Paul shows in Ephesians that Gentiles where once without hope (2:12), but no longer so. Our hope is tied up with His calling, which now includes Gentiles. The call of God can be defined as “the actualization in history of his electing purpose and involves God’s initiative in bringing a person into relationship with himself.”[3] The Gentiles experience the actualization of being able to come into relationship with God, apart from Israel, due to the call of the Apostle Paul and the revelation of the Mystery (Eph. 3:1-10). The hope of the Gentiles is tied with the call of God to them and their response to the Gospel of Grace. Paul again ties hope and calling together in Ephesians 4:4. Hope here should not be limited to one aspect or detail, but entails hope in its entirety. This hope is laid up for us in heaven (Col. 1:5), and is present with us now for Christ is in you and defined as “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Thus we wait until the appearing of our Savior, when He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). The effectual call of God through the Gospel of Grace provides confident, assuring hope. Confidence of hope comes from the enlightening of our understanding by the Holy Spirit.

What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (1:18c).
The second concept Paul wants us to be enlightened about is our wealth. The Greek word here is ploutos, and is singular, not plural, thus wealth would be a better translation instead of riches. Here the wealth is identified as “the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” This may be taken in two ways. There are strong valid cases for each view. Both views are possible, and it is hard to be dogmatic.

First, it could mean the inheritance of which God is the author of our inheritance.
[4]  In this case it refers to the inheritance which God is preparing in the saints. It is looked upon as the object or substance of our hope.[5] The Greek word kleronomias is always indicative of the inheritance intended for believers. There is no question that the Greek word has the main idea of possession. The crux of the case is found in the phrase “in the saints.” They hold that the preposition (en) in, can be taken as “in the case of,” in the person of the saints.[6] Lenski views this as the solution, saying, “Ev is quite often used with persons and refers to what is mentioned as pertaining to them: “in their case.”[7] This certainly fits well with 1 Corinthians 2:19.

Second is the view that the saints are God’s inheritance. In this case, inheritance is God’s, not that of believers. This view holds that the possessive pronoun “his” (autou) designates that the inheritance belongs to God. The inheritance of God is located (en) in the sphere of the saints.
[8]  It denotes our value to God. We are “His inheritance.” This seems to me to be the most natural way to take the text. God’s people are often seen as God’s inheritance in the Old Testament (Deut. 9:26; Psalms 33:12; 61:5). Thus, the glory of which Paul speaks is the glory of us being God’s own possession, in which He will glorify Himself. It is not because of any glory or merit we possess. We have none. The glory comes from His work in and through us. “Believers are valuable to God because he purchased them in order to inherit them” observes Hoehner.[9] Some hold that the church the body of Christ is unique as God’s inheritance. However, the reading of Scripture does not seem to uphold this idea. The Old Testament dispels this. The revelation of God’s inheritance is not a unique one given only to Paul and the Church, the body of Christ. Both Israel and the Church are God’s inheritance. It must be pointed out and granted that our inheritance is not the same. Israel’s inheritance centers upon the earth and the Messianic Kingdom, the Church’s centers upon the heavenly and the rapture (Phil 3:20, Col. 1:5), however, both are said to be God’s inheritance in Scripture (Eph. 1:18 cf. Deut. 9:26). No doubt that His inheritance is the glory brought to Him by and through His people. Both the Church’s (Eph. 5:27) and Israel’s (Isa. 62:3 cf. John 7:22-26) purpose is to glorify God. However, make no mistake; the immediate context concerns the Church, the Body of Christ.

And what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (1:19).  The third aspect Paul wants us to be enlightened about is His power which God has directed toward members of the Church. Paul expresses this power as “the surpassing greatness.”  The word surpassing is the Greek word huperballon, meaning to go beyond, or to throw over and is translated surpassing, exceed, or excel. It speaks of the magnitude of something. Paul uses the word three times in Ephesians to show the magnitude of certain actions of God toward the believer. It speaks of His power (1:19), riches of His grace (2:7) directed toward us who believe, plus love bringing surpassing knowledge (3:17).

The surpassing greatness of His power is the climax that Paul wants for the believers. He therefore spends the rest of the time on this subject. Paul uses several words for power in the remaining verses of chapter 1. The word power here is dunameos, and is the common word with reference to God (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Cor. 4:7) and Christ (1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Cor. 12:9). It means power, competence, strength, and ability. It denotes the ability to accomplish something.
[10] It is potential power, yet to be released. Notice two things about this power: first, the relative pronoun “His,” the subject is the power of God. Second, this power is (eis) “toward” us (cf. 2 Cor. 13:4).  It speaks of direction. This affirms that the emphasis is not our work or ability, but His work of giving power or ability that is directed toward us who believe. No wonder Paul declares that He can do all things through Him that empowers me (Phil. 4:13).

[1]   John Eadie, EPHESIANS, 89. He points out that the verse opens with an infinitive of aim.
[2]   R. Bultmann, “Elpis,” TDOTNT, 231.
[3]   Andrew T. Lincoln, EPHESIANS 59.
[4]   A view held by such men as Hodge, Lenski, Best, Eadie, and Lloyd-Jones.
[5]   R.C.H. Lenski, EPHESIANS, 396.
[6]   A.T. Robertson, GRAMMAR, 585.
[7]   Lenski, 397.
[8]   Ernest Campbell, EPHESIANS, 50. This view is held also by Sadler, Wuest, Lincoln, Baker, and Hoehner.
[9]   Harold Hoehner, EPHESIANS 267.
[10]   Lincoln, 60

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The blessing of REVELATION 1:3

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy” (1:3). This is the first blessing in the book of Revelation. There are 7 blessings or beatitudes in this book. Each blessing or beatitude is unique:

  • He who reads and listens (1:3).
  • Those believers who die during the Tribulation (14:13).
  • He who watches and keeps his garments (16:15).
  • Those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:9).
  • He who has part in the first resurrection (20:6).
  • He who keeps the words of this prophecy (22:7).
  • Those who do His commandments (22:14).
The word blessed (makarios) is the same word that Jesus used in the beatitudes on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:3-12). It comes from the root, large, denoting blessed or happy. The word is followed by a singular and a plural—he, singular and those plural. These tenses refer to one reader and many listeners. This refers to first century custom in the early church where there were no Bibles. The book had to be read to the congregation. For centuries the practice of reading aloud the Scriptures in the services was the custom. In this case what they are to read and hear are the words of the prophecy. This denotes the genre of this book—prophecy. This is reaffirmed in Rev. 22:7, 10, 18-19. Revelation begins and ends on the note that it is prophecy. The word is used seven times in this book (1:3; 11:6; 19:10; 22:7, 10, 18-19). As prophecy it is a continuation (and completion) of the Old Testament Scriptures. It also notes that the primary means communication is by words, either read or heard. 

And heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (1:3). While hearing this prophecy is the first step of blessing, there is another step—obedience (James 1:22). The word heed is the Greek word terountes (present active participle) meaning “while holding fast.” Hearing and obeying is a common connection in this book (12:47 14:23-24). Bullinger wants to limit this to remembering, or ponder upon the words of Revelation,[1] omitting the idea of compliance, but does not seem to have much merit. Compliance by heeding or keeping is a common theme in Revelation (1:3; 2:26; 3:3, 8, 10: 12:17; 14:12; 16:15; 22:7, 9). Newell makes a wise observation: “The prophecy will be fulfilled, whether we pay attention to it or not. But there is divine blessing if we give heed to it and jealously guard its very words!”[2]

 For” (gar) is the preposition of reason. It tells why the reading, hearing, and heeding is necessary—“for the time is near” (1:4). Osborne notes the word near is use twice, always with the word time (here and 22:10); thereby “framing the book with the warning of the imminent eschaton.”[3] Time is the Greek word kairos, frequently a technical term in the NT for the end times when the earthly kingdom is to be established.[4] It indicates nearness from the standpoint of prophetic revelation. The events of Revelation are next on God’s prophetic program, its implementation awaits the rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-18). When that takes place, these sequence of events will happen, thus they are near or at hand. The concept of imminence is constantly placed before the reader. “The prophecy of this book is not to be put aside as though it referred to things so remote that they have no concern for us. But they are always to be regarded as near, and kept in our minds, so that we may walk in view of the nearness of the Day when the Lord will judge, and thus be without care as to this present time.”[5]

[1]  E.W. Bullinger, THE APOCALYPSE, 137.
[3]  Grant Osborne, REVELATION, 59.
[4]  Robert Thomas, REVELATION, 1:130
[5]  Bullinger, 137-138.


BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

This is a very good read—informative, extensive, and captivating.  It is as much about a time and location as it is about a person. He was the right man for the right place. Born into an upper class family he grew up in pre-WWII Germany. At a young age he knew he wanted to be a Theologian, although he did not grow up in a religious family.

He grew up in a time that the church in Germany was very weak. Liberal theology and criticism were in control. He sat under some of the most liberal teachers, yet he turned out more orthodox than most of his contemporaries. His favorite theologian was Barth, a neoorthodox. He was educated for a while in America, but did not think that there was any theology at Union Theological Seminary. The most important influence from America was the Nero church. I would classify him as a theologian with a heart for people.  His specialty was the church (the subject of his thesis). He had a deeply personal faith, one that led him to commit to extensive periods of personal Bible study, meditation and prayer.

Because he was committed to the Lord and His church, he was a man concerned about the condition of the German church. This led to his prophetic insight that saw nothing good coming from Hitler and his leadership. He was one of the first to preach against him and take a stand in the church against aligning with the Nazis. His voice, like the Biblical prophets, went unheeded. He was not only critical of the Nazis, but became a coconspirator with his brother and brother-in-law to assassinate Hitler. He was arrested and killed just before Hitler took his own life at the end of the war.
I really liked this book. It is a combination of my two favorite areas—theology and history. Read it, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, June 3, 2011


As the day of Pentecost arrives, the believers are still “all together in one place” (2:1). The word “arrive” or “had come” (symplerosthai) is stronger than simply that Pentecost was present or had started, rather it carries the idea of fulfillment, and it points to the completion of a set time.[1] Delling says the word has the meaning to make complete, or to be fulfilled. He makes the suggestion “that God’s saving will is carried out in the event…What is fulfilled is not just the period up to the event, but the time of the event itself….”[2] The text could be translated: “And in the Day of Pentecost was to be fulfilled, they were all of one mind and together in the same place” (author’s translation). Baker notes that “The Holy Spirit was not poured out because the disciples had attained a state of super-spirituality, but simply because the set time for His coming had arrived.”[3] Christ had died, rose, and ascended, now was the time for the Spirit to come. God is acting in fulfillment of His promise to the nation of Israel. The coming of the Spirit was to be a new phrase in the national and religious life of Israel. This is a fulfillment of prophecy, both of the Old Testament and Christ concerning the empowering and coming of the Holy Spirit upon the nation of Israel, and thus to the world.

The coming of the Holy Spirit signified two very important truths: First, the Spirit came to be present with and in believers (John 14:17). Second, those whom He indwells He enables. The emphasis of this event is on enablement and witness.

God now acts to fulfill what He promised. “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (2:2). The emphasis is on the sound.[4] Interestingly, the text literally reads, “a sound as of a violent wind being borne along.” It is not wind that filled the house, but sound. “This mighty sound was surely the symbol of power…The volume of the sound denotes vast, supernatural power,”[5] notes Lenski. This fits well with the concept of a baptism of the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Harrison connects it with Ezekiel 37:1-14, were the Spirit is connected with noise and breath.[6] Wind and the Spirit are closely connected in John 3:6-8. What is true in both passages, and here at Pentecost, is the idea of wind symbolizing the Holy Spirit. This sound filled the house. Tradition says this was the upper room.

In addition, “there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them” (2:3). This describes the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was a baptism of power from on high (cp. Luke 24:49). We must note, as Baker does:

This long-promised event should not be confused with another work of the Spirit which is also called a baptism and which results in the formation of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This latter work of the Spirit had never been promised, but is related to that which Paul calls a mystery or secret. This later work of the Spirit is “non-experiential.” When the Spirit baptizes a person into the Body of Christ upon believing the Gospel, the believer does not sense or feel the experience. The only way he knows it has occurred is that Paul’s epistles tell him the Spirit has done this work. But in contrast to this, the baptizing work of the Spirit as Pentecost was completely experiential. There was a sound of a might rushing wind, such as that of a tornado; there was a visible appearance of a flame of fire which separated into smaller flames and which sat upon each of the believers…. With such a great contrast between these two works of the Spirit it is difficult to understand how anyone could confuse them.[7]

Another factor to indicate this is not the spiritual baptism into the Body of Christ is that the events of Pentecost were local, not (which many seem to assume) universal. Aldrich made this point, saying:

Those who note the problem have oversimplified the solution by declaring that all believers were baptized by the Spirit into the church on the Day of Pentecost…. The historical facts are quite otherwise. Only 120 received the initial baptism at Pentecost. There is no record of any simultaneous coming or outpouring of the Spirit upon individuals or groups in other places.[8]

This seems to be supported by these following facts:

·         Joel’s promise is related directly to Zion and Jerusalem (Joel 2:28-32).

·         The Twelve were told to wait in Jerusalem for this event (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). Why would they have had to wait in this location if the event was going to be simultaneous with people in other places?

·         That is why this baptism of power was repeated outside Jerusalem by the Apostles laying on of hands (cf. Acts 8:14-17).

·         That is the case of John’s disciples in Acts 19:1-7. Notice the question asked is not did they receive the Holy Spirit, but did they receive Holy Spirit (empowerment). There is no article in the Greek, which indicates it is the power, not the person. It is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that is in view. What Paul does is baptize them with the power of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the power of speaking in tongues. Note also these were Jews, not Gentiles. They also were converted under John the Baptist, not under Jesus or the Twelve. For some reason they had not been updated until they met Paul.

All of this supports the idea that Pentecost was not a universal event, but limited both in location (Jerusalem) and subjects (Jews). The baptism of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is not an experience oriented event, but is universal. On the other hand, the Pentecost experience was accompanied with local experiential results. Aldrich goes on to note:

It may be objected that this conclusion is based on the argument from silence and this is acknowledged. However, the theory that others in different geographical locations received the Spirit at the time of the experience in the upper room is likewise based on the argument from silence. But it seems strange that the Scripture should be silent on so important a matter if there were additional Pentecostal experiences in other places. While the Scriptures are not explicit in limiting the initial baptism to the 120, there are some strong implicit arguments for this conclusion.[9]

While the sound was heard, now we have something visible. The Greek word for appeared (horao), specifies something that was seen, or observable. It is from the word meaning eye, from which comes the English word optical.[10] What was visible is described in the text as “tongues as of fire.” Evidently the appearance of fire came in one piece and then separated into individual flames. However, the emphasis is on the word tongues, not fire, but the word fire is significant. In the Old Testament fire symbolized one of two things: First, the presence of God (Ex. 3:2-4; 13:21; Deut. 5:4, 24-26).  Second, judgment (cf. Isa. 5:24; 66:15-18). Malachi (3:2-6) speaks of fire as a purifying agent. These Old Testament promises involve only the nation of Israel. All indications are that the fire is a symbol of His empowering presence.

The Old Testament is abundant with the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Take note of the following Old Testament Scriptures:

·         Isa 32:15—“Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high.”

·         Isa 44:3—“I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And my blessing on your descendants.” This is clearly a promise to the offspring of Jacob (Israel).

·         Ezek 36:26-27—“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Clearly this promise is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with the nation of the renewed Israel during the end times.

·         Ezek 37:14—“I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it, declares the Lord.”

·         Ezek 39:29—“I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel”

·         Joel 2:28-29—“And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Is it little wonder that Peter will come to say “This is it…” (Acts 2:16)? Peter, who is filled with the Spirit, points out that Pentecost is in fulfillment of Old Testament promise, especially Joel. The ring of fulfillment is found throughout this passage. The key to understanding Acts chapter 2 is fulfillment and renewal.

[1]  Bock, ACTS, 94.
[2]  G. Delling,. “Sympleroo,” THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMEN (Abridged in One Volume), 871.
[3]  Baker, 19.
[4]  Cf. Gen. 3:8. Could this have been the same sound that Adam heard in the garden?
[5]  Lenski, ACTS, 58.
[6]  Harrison, ACTS, 58.
[8]  Aldrich, Roy L., “The Transition Problem in Acts,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, July 1957,237 (This journal will be footnoted as BIB-SAC from now on).
[9]  Ibid, 238-239.