Friday, December 16, 2016


“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’” (Luke 24:44-49). We usually limit Christ’s explanation of “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” to the phrase “Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead.” I think, however, that Jesus included the global, Spirit-empowered witness in that explanation. The saving work of the Christ and the power of that work to re-orient the world to a radical, eternal Christ-centeredness and submission is also part of the story of the O.T.

I used to say, almost tongue-in-cheek, that when you had finished doing everything Jesus commanded and teaching other disciples among all the nations to do the same, you could study and debate the Revelation (or Daniel, Zechariah, Ezekiel, etc.). It seems to be time to add an additional statement: when you’re done witnessing “to all the nations” concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness found in faithfulness to Him, and how that is taught in the whole Bible, then you can talk politics. When you’re done strategizing on how to get others out there, looking for unreached corners of your own counties, giving as much as you can to fund the going of others, the purchasing of outreach materials, praying exhaustively for the mission (2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:2-6), using the digital world for outreach, etc., then you can worry over and battle and (sigh) throw insults and whatever else for the sake of the control of the city of man…if you can find Scripture backing up such an enterprise and approach.

If you’re talking/posting more about the President, President-elect, or any other politician serving in the city of man than you speak of Jesus, and you claim to follow Him, you need to repent. Everyone else is talking about these briefest of flashes in world history; you have been given the message of the forever-King, His works, and His commands. Why would we waste a single breath or keystroke on those who are only distractions from eternity?

Not to be crass, but under the old covenant, while Israel was still wandering the desert, part of the Law of Moses even told them how to dispose of their personal bodily waste (Deuteronomy 23:12-14). It mattered because “the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.” If the toilet door wasn’t shut on the LORD for some privacy, do you really think your blog is yours, Christian? Or your social media accounts? Or anything?

I started with the red letter recorded by Luke. Moving on to the good doctor’s sequel, let’s consider the red letter in its beginning.

“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth’” (Acts 1:1-8). I think it both fascinating and germane that, after Jesus “over a period of forty days” spoke to them “of the things concerning the kingdom of God,” they ask about a restoration of “the kingdom of Israel.” Any preacher or anyone involved in communication of information and events to a church can relate to this disjunct between what was said and what was heard (or not heard). “Forty days.” I do find it comforting that the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the very Word of God made flesh, Who “by the Holy Spirit [had] given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen,” had to deal with the same issues as a preacher in a small pulpit or the poor soul charged with making announcements.

So I’ll say again: if you claim to follow Jesus, and He has commanded that you be part of proclaiming Him to the entire world, why is He less than 10% of what you say, write, re-post, echo, think, adore? I guarantee there is still a “remotest part” in your town, beloved. We’re not done yet.

Earlier I mentioned something I often say about the Revelation or “end times” obsessions. I’m certainly not done teaching new disciples to obey everything Christ commanded (Matthew 28:20), and I’m nowhere close to obeying Him adequately myself, but I want to look at a chapter in the Revelation to finish this post out.

“…‘I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.’ These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth [Zechariah 4:11-14; 2 Corinthians 2:17]. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies [2 Samuel 22:9; Psalm 97:3; Jeremiah 5:14]; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying [1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1:10]; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood [Exodus 7:20; Revelation 16:4], and to strike the earth with every plague [the Revelation, describing the final Exodus event, references “plagues” often - 9:2; 15:1,6,8; 16:9,21; 18:4,8; 21:9; 22:18], as often as they desire. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them [compare with 17:6]. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city [Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10,16,18,19,21] which mystically is called Sodom [Isaiah 1:10] and Egypt [Galatians 4:21-31], where also their Lord was crucified. Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days [compare with “forty-two months,” 11:2, and “twelve hundred and sixty days,” 11:3; see also Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Luke 4:25; Revelation 12:14], and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth [Esther 9:22]. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet [Ezekiel 37:5,10]; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them” (Revelation 11:3-12).

Quite the tapestry of other Bible passages, isn’t it? I’ve taught through Revelation three times (not in the same venue or time slot), and am fighting a temptation to do it again. I’m not satisfied with how I’ve taught it, and can’t find anyone who teaches it in a way that seems (to me) to match the purpose of the Holy Spirit in inspiring it. It’s about an unveiling of “Jesus Christ.” It’s supposed to be a blessing to the one “who reads” it, along with those “who hear the words of the prophecy.” This is a corporate worship (“church service”) setting. The Revelation is something we’re supposed to “heed” (1:3). Yet it’s taught as information about events (past, present, future) on a geopolitical level. Nations are the focus, not Jesus. After just a cursory reading of the above passage from chapter 11 and noting a few of the Old Testament (or even New Testament) cross-references, my conviction that we don’t understand “prophecy” is only growing. True, I am an amillennialist, which means (now that I’ve put a label to it), many readers will automatically check out, but I believe the Revelation describes the work of Jesus Christ in His Church in this last age of the world (the Gospel Age) using only Old Testament quotes, allusions, and echoes. What if you had to write a newspaper article about a current event, but could only cut-and-paste from a history book to do it? Or, to make it more like the Revelation, you could only cut-and-paste from an art history book and several classic poets to do it? Just as Jesus taught from “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” concerning His saving work and the spread of the message of that work throughout the world, Revelation is a capstone to the Bible in that it does exactly that. It takes “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” and weaves a complicated, dramatic, powerful series of tapestry-images that we will only grasp if we are living a New Testament life with New Testament thinking and New Testament goals in New Testament ways while growing in our understanding of Old Testament passages and how they point to Jesus. To re-allocate Paul, “brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).

The witnesses. Two of them. They speak with authority and power. The world hates them. I believe they represent the Church in the Gospel Age. You, Church, are called to proclaim the divine and personal Truth (John 14:6) in the power of the Holy Spirit to a world that absolutely hates it.

Why two witnesses? Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15 (see also Matthew 18:16; 26:60; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28). It took at least two for righteous condemnation in judgment.

The function of the two witnesses is to facilitate God’s judgment.

You are talking about who’s right and who’s wrong in the politics of the city of man, when you are called and empowered to walk through Ninevah warning, “yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4), and offering the only hope: “Salvation is from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). That generation of Ninevah wasn’t saved by a smear campaign against the king. Or by advocating replacement of that king. It was saved by proclaiming judgment and commanding repentance.

When Paul was speaking to Felix, the Roman procurator of Judea (A.D. 52-58), and the procurator’s wife, the apostle spoke “about faith in Christ Jesus,” which included “discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:24,25). Yes, it “frightened” Felix. Yes, he sent Paul away. But Paul, called to be a witness as much as we are, Church, did his duty “before the Lord of the earth.” He didn’t speak civic policy or political theory with Felix. He proclaimed the greater Kingdom and its greatest King. This is what Jesus said would happen (Matthew 10:16-20//Mark 13:9-11//Luke 21:12-15).

I took this picture a few nights ago looking out one of the back windows of the house, roughly facing southeast. Sirius is high in the picture. Brightest star in the sky. Part of Canis Major, the dog running with the hunter Orion across the winter night sky. Yet Sirius is not the brightest light in the picture. A bit less than 300 yards away from me is a barn. When the moon is casting its light, the metal roof of that barn is a bright trapezoid-looking shape that immediately catches your attention. That dog’s been chasing the hunter across the sky for all of human history, but a bit of metal roofing in a cattle field easily outshines it. You're not supposed to be a superstar or an announcer for a superstar (a celestial dog chasing Orion across the sky); you're an "adequate" (2 Corinthians 3:4,5; 2 Timothy 3:17) means of reflecting a greater light. Reflect the greater Light, Church. In the darkness, don’t echo the words (spoken or digital) of the darkness. There is only one Light. Reflect.

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