Category Archives: Biblical Studies

The Name of Jesus in the O.T.

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead … neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10,12)

The name of Jesus, as we have it in the New Testament by way of the Greek language, or Joshua (i.e., Yeshua) in Hebrew, means “Jehovah [i.e., the Lord] is salvation”. As the angel told Joseph, the child to be born of the virgin Mary was to be named “JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The child was also to be called “Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us” (Matthew 1:23); that Jesus would be known as Immanuel (i.e., a manifestation of God Himself) is not uniquely a New Testament notion, but comes directly from the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14).

In a similar way, the name JESUS also comes from the Old Testament. Isaiah 62:11 reveals:

“Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”

In this verse given through the prophet Isaiah, “salvation” (Heb., Yesha) is a Person (note the masculine pronouns “his” and “him” used in the clauses that follow). A Person who will be known as “salvation” is said to be coming, bringing both his “reward” and his “work”; clearly, this is the Person of JESUS. Compare this verse with Isaiah 40:10, which reads:

“Behold, the Lord God will come … behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”

Isaiah 40:10 asserts exactly the same truth, using exactly the same words, as Isaiah 62:11, but in this instance the Person known as “salvation” is identified as “the Lord God”. Thus, the Person known as “salvation”, that is Jesus, is equated with Divinity; Jesus and Jehovah are one (cf. John 10:30). Such equations of “Jesus” and “Jehovah”, which are implicit assertions of the Deity of Jesus Christ, are common between the New and Old Testaments (Cp., Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 45:6).

Finally, consider the words of Jesus Himself, spoken in the closing chapter of the Bible. Revelation 22:12 records Jesus as saying:

“… behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me …”

Jesus takes the words of “the Lord God” spoken in Isaiah 40:10, the very same words that in Isaiah 62:11 are ascribed to a Person known as “salvation”, for Himself. Jesus connects the dots for us. The name of “Jesus”, by which alone comes salvation, just like “Immanuel” comes straight out of the Old Testament!


Signs of the Second Coming

“And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:32-37)

The Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for failing to recognize the signs of His First Coming (Matthew 16:1-3). Obvious signs they should have recognized included: 1) the virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-14), 2) prophesied Messianic miracles (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21), and 3) Daniel’s prophecy of the 69 Weeks which gave the very day Messiah would present himself to Israel (Daniel 9:25; Luke 19:41-44).

During His ministry at His First Coming, Jesus taught there would also be signs that precede His Second Coming (Matthew 24:3ff; Luke 21:25-28). For these signs (Mark 13:4), Jesus commanded us all to “Watch” (Mark 13:32-37).

A new study titled Signs of the Second Coming has been added in the Biblical Studies area.


What on Earth is Satan Doing?

“. . . for we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices.”  (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Introduction. Each year as part of the Christmas season, believers traditionally read the gospel accounts from Matthew and Luke which record the events associated with the birth of Christ: the supernatural conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38), the decree of Caesar Augustus that providentially caused Joseph and the very pregnant Mary to travel to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5), the unlikely birth of Jesus in a stable (Luke 2:6-7), and the appearance of a host of angels to a group of shepherds leading them to visit the newborn babe and find him lying in a manger (Luke 2:8-20). Although most Christians are somewhat aware that the visit of the wise men (i.e., Magi) did not occur on the night of Christ’s birth, nor did their visit take place at the stable, the Biblical record of it is usually included in these Christmas readings (Matthew 2:1-12). In most cases the Christmas readings are concluded at this point, for the record immediately turns very dark if continued: Joseph is warned by an angel to flee into Egypt with Mary and the young Jesus to escape King Herod’s slaughter of all the babies up to two years old in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:13-18).

A wicked King Herod was the human instrument in the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem, but Revelation 12:3 reveals that this event was diabolical in origin, being planned and perpetrated by the “dragon”, who is Satan himself (cf. Revelation 12:9). Apparently Satan believed that if he could murder Jesus, he could thwart the plan of God and perhaps somehow escape his own prophesied destruction by the Messiah (Genesis 3:15). Although this was Satan’s first direct attempt to destroy the Messiah, it was not his first attempt to prevent His coming—nor would it be his last attempt to prevent His coming again.

Satan’s Strategy. Immediately following God’s primeval prophecy of the destruction of the Serpent (i.e., Satan; cf. Revelation 12:6) by the seed of the woman (i.e., Messiah; Genesis 3:15), Satan began working to thwart the fulfillment of this prophecy. Initially, he worked to prevent the coming of Messiah; when Messiah came, he worked to destroy Him; and after Messiah’s death, resurrection and ascension, he worked (and continues to work) to prevent His return. Initially, Satan’s work was necessarily very broad in scope, since he had little information on which to act. However, as God progressively revealed more and more information regarding the nature of Messiah’s origin and coming, Satan’s attack became more narrowly focused. In the following sections, a few highlights from some of Satan’s activities undertaken in his attempt to thwart the plan of God and his own prophesied destruction are briefly surveyed in: 1) the Old Testament, 2) the New Testament, 3) the Church Age following the close of the canon of Scripture, and 4) the future Tribulation. As will be seen, the broad-based activities of Satan very quickly devolve into a narrow, focused persecution of Israel. The annihilation of the nation of Israel and extermination of all Jews is Satan’s only hope to avert his own destruction.

In the O.T. At first, Satan had to act on very little information. He only knew that his prophesied protagonist (hereafter referred to as the Messiah) would be a male descendent of Eve (Genesis 3:15). When Eve gave birth to Cain, she actually (albeit incorrectly) believed he was the Messiah (Genesis 4:1). Satan worked to sow discord between Cain and his brother Abel, resulting in Cain committing the first murder; apparently Satan believed the sin of murder would disqualify Cain as the Messiah—but Cain was not the Messiah.

A thousand years later, in the days of Noah, a new tactic of Satan surfaces. Satan had been working, apparently for centuries, to corrupt the human gene pool by the interbreeding of human women with his demonic horde (Genesis 6:1-2), which produced a race of “giants” (i.e., Nephilim; Genesis 6:4). As human-demon hybrids, the offspring of such giants would be unqualified to be a kinsman-redeemer for the human race (cf. Hebrews 2:14-16). So widespread was the scope of this Satanic attack, it required the destruction of the entire human race in the global flood of Noah in order to frustrate (Genesis 6:17); only Noah and his family were preserved through the flood in order to repopulate the earth, for Noah was “perfect in his generations” (i.e., his family’s genetic code was free of Nephilim corruption; Genesis 6:9).

Satan employed this same tactic again (note Genesis 6:4, “and also after that”), but on a much more limited scope. When the children of Israel first arrived at the Promised Land (i.e., Canaan), they found dwelling there the “sons of Anak”, a new race of “giants” (Numbers 13:33). Now knowing that God had chosen Abraham to be the progenitor of the Messiah (Genesis 12:3), and that four generations after Abraham God would give Abraham’s seed the land of Canaan as their inheritance (Genesis 15:16,18-21), Satan again began his work of corrupting the human gene pool from which Messiah must come. The elimination of all vestiges of Anakim genetic corruption from the Promised Land was at least one reason God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to “utterly destroy” all the indigenous people they found dwelling in Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-3).

The preparation of the Anakim in the Promised Land was a long-term (contingency) project of Satan while Jacob’s family was sojourning in Egypt for four generations, but he also engineered more direct attacks on the Hebrews using Pharaoh as his diabolical instrument. These included Pharaoh’s early command to the Hebrew midwives to kill all sons born to the Hebrew women (Exodus 1:15-16) as well as his ultimate attempt to destroy the fleeing Hebrews with the armies of Egypt (Exodus 14:5-9). In order to preserve the seed of Abraham, God destroyed Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt, to the very last man, in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:28).

As time went on, and as the nation of Israel became established in their own land, God revealed that the Messiah would come from the line of King David (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). At this point, Satan could further focus his attacks on David and his family. Although Scripture records a myriad of such attacks, some subtle and some not so subtle, the most direct was Queen Athaliah’s attempt to completely exterminate the royal seed (2 Chronicles 22:10). In that instance, the only member of the royal seed to escape death was the infant Joash, being hidden for six years and installed as king at the age of seven after the death of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:11; 24:1).

Attention is called to a final instance from late in the Old Testament period. With the nation of Israel still in exile, dispersed throughout the Medo-Persian empire, Satan raises up an influential Amalekite named Haman in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus (i.e., Xerxes; Esther 3:1). Because of his hatred for Mordecai the Jew, “Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:6). God foiled this diabolical attempt at Jewish genocide by providentially installing Esther as Xerxes’ queen, whose Jewish identity had been kept secret until after Haman’s plan was revealed (Esther 2:10; 7:3-6).

In the N.T. Satan’s many attempts recorded throughout the Old Testament to prevent the coming of Messiah all failed. The New Testament opens with the record of the prophesied birth of Messiah to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:16-25; Luke 2:1-20). The Messiah having been born, Satan moves King Herod to slaughter all the babies born in Bethlehem over a two year period in a desperate attempt to murder the Messiah (Matthew 2:13-18). When Jesus the Messiah begins His ministry, Satan immediately and directly confronts Him with multiple temptations to sin (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-14), since a sinful Messiah would be disqualified as “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19). Finally, Satan personally indwells Judas (John 13:26-27) in order to betray Jesus and move the Jewish people to demand His crucifixion (Matthew 27:22-26). Like Jesus’ own disciples on the road to Emmaus, Satan mistakenly believed that the crucifixion of Jesus meant the mission of Messiah had been thwarted (Luke 24:21).

During the Church Age. The close of the New Testament canon has not meant an end to Satan’s work. Indeed, throughout the Church Age, Satan has continued his work to destroy Israel and completely exterminate the Jewish race. Consider just two examples, one that began early in the Church Age and one that has occurred late: 1) the origin and ascendancy of Islam, a religion dogmatically devoted to the destruction of Israel (cf. Psalm 83), and whose consummation on earth cannot be accomplished until every last Jew has been killed; 2) Hitler’s holocaust, in which one out of every three Jews on earth was killed, and which required World War II (the greatest of all wars) to stop. But why, if Jesus (the Messiah) has already come and successfully completed His work of redemption, is Satan still working incessantly to destroy Israel? Because Scripture makes clear that it is only after Jesus’ return that He will destroy Satan (Revelation 20:1-10), and Jesus Himself revealed that He will not return until the nation of Israel repents of their rejection of Him and petitions His return (Matthew 23:37-39; cf. Hosea 5:15). Thus, even today, Satan believes that by exterminating the Jews he can prevent the return of Jesus (not the Rapture, but the second advent) and his own prophesied destruction.

In the Future Tribulation. Satan’s final and futile attempt to exterminate the Jews (and prevent the return of Jesus) will take place during the Tribulation (i.e., Daniel’s 70th Week; defined in Daniel 9:27 and detailed in Revelation 6-19). It is during this period of time that Satan will be allowed (by God) to raise up his own seed, the seed of the Serpent (Genesis 3:15), which the Apostle John calls the “antichrist” in his epistles (1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7) and the “beast” in Revelation (e.g., Revelation 11:7; 13:1). “And the dragon [Satan] was wroth with the woman [Israel], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ [Jewish believers]” (Revelation 12:17).

Conclusion. What on Earth is Satan doing? The Apostle Paul testified that believers “are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). It is clear from the inspired and inerrant historical record preserved in the Bible that Satan worked throughout the Old Testament to prevent the coming of Messiah. Once God revealed that Messiah would come from Israel, Satan’s tactics centered on the destruction of the nation of Israel and the complete eradication of the Jewish race. Throughout the Church Age, even to this very day, Satan continues his work to destroy Israel and the Jews in the desperate hope of preventing the return of Messiah. The Word of God, however, is clear, and its promises are sure: all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-27), Jesus will return (Revelation 19:11-16), and Satan will be cast forever into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).

 


Israel’s Refuge in (the) Tribulation

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“The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalm 46:7,11)

Psalm 46 was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Although Luther cast his hymn from the perspective of the Church under assault by the Devil, Psalm 46 is written from the perspective of the believing Jewish remnant during the time of the Tribulation (i.e., Daniel’s 70th Week). It appears to have been composed in the days of King Hezekiah when an attack by the Assyrian army on Jerusalem was imminent (Isaiah 36-37), at which time the city was miraculously delivered by divine intervention (Isaiah 37:36-37). The message of the psalm is that the omnipotent and omnipresent God will be present with His people (Israel) during their time of greatest peril; He is their refuge and strength, so they need not fear.

A repeated refrain in the Psalm (vv. 7, 11) is that the “LORD” (i.e., the God whose personal name is Yahweh) commands the “host” of heaven, an army of innumerable angelic warriors, a single one of which delivered Jerusalem from the army of Assyria in the days of King Hezekiah by destroying 185,000 soldiers on one night (Isaiah 37:36). The LORD, while being the one true God over all of creation, is uniquely “the God of Jacob”, the sure “refuge” of Israel. The thought impressed upon Israel in this psalm is also impressed upon the Church, which is promised persecution throughout the Church Age (John 15:18-20; 16:33; Romans 8:35-39; 2 Timothy 3:12); namely, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

A new set of notes commenting on Psalm 46 has been added under the Biblical Studies menu.


Romans: The Gospel of God

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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:16-17)

The importance of the Book of Romans cannot be overstated. Perhaps the oldest question recorded in the Bible, and the most important, was asked by Job, “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2); Romans gives a clear answer to that ancient question, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, a quote from Habakkuk 2:4). The theme throughout Romans is the grace of God in general, with justification of the sinner by grace through faith emphasized in particular. In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, the apostle presents a systematic and exhaustive treatment of the theology that undergirds the gospel of grace, which allows God to save believing sinners without compromising His own righteousness (Romans 3:26).

I began teaching a weekly class on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in September 2014.  The notes for this study are updated regularly.  You can find them under the Biblical Studies menu; check periodically to follow the study as it progresses.  God bless!


Kept by the Power of God

“. . . God . . . hath begotten us again . . . who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

The Bible reveals that a person is saved by the grace of God, through personal faith in Jesus Christ, entirely without any works on his part (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 20:31; Romans 4:5), and that the saved believer is given by God the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:13). This is part and parcel of the gospel itself. The teaching of the Bible on this issue is clear and unequivocal, against which no Christian would argue.

Argument arises among Christians, however, over the question of whether a genuine believer can ever lose his salvation, which (at least at a particular time) he actually possessed. Arminians answer this question, “Yes”. They argue that salvation is conditioned on personal faith, and that once a person ceases to believe he is no longer saved, nor is he in possession of eternal life, though at one time he may have been in actual possession of it [1]. In their view, a “believer” who commits heinous and/or habitual sin is one who has ceased believing and has, as a consequence, lost his salvation. Thus, in Arminian theology, the maintenance of a believer’s salvation is the responsibility of the believer.

Calvinists answer the question, “No”. They argue that the salvation of an individual is a sovereign work of God that is unconditional and immutable. God even supplies as a sovereign gift the personal faith upon which salvation would appear to be conditioned. In Calvinistic theology, there is no possibility of ever reversing God’s sovereign work that bestows upon an individual the entire package of personal faith, regeneration, salvation, and eternal life. In their view, since personal faith is part of an unconditional and immutable work of God on behalf of an elect person, a genuine believer will necessarily persevere in faith to the very end of his life. Any “believer” who commits heinous and/or habitual sin is one who was never actually in possession of salvation, even though at one time he may have professed personal faith and even appeared to manifest behaviors associated with salvation.

Both of these theological positions result in scenarios in which a genuine believer can never find rest, having an unshakeable confidence that he is saved and can never lose his salvation. The Arminian believes he can, through a lapse in faith or temptation into sin, lose his salvation and the eternal life he once possessed. The Calvinist believes that, in order to be assured he is one of God’s elect who has been sovereignly regenerated, saved, and granted eternal life, he must persevere in his faith and good works without significant lapse until death or the rapture [2]. In practice, neither Arminianism nor Calvinism afford a believer the confidence one finds revealed in the New Testament (John 10:27-29; 20:31; 1 John 5:13).

The New Testament answers the question, “No”. A genuine believer who has been born again and received from God the gift of eternal life can never lose his salvation. The reason for this conclusion, however, is different than that offered by Calvinism, and it undergirds the basis of a believer’s assurance, peace, and rest. The security of the believer in his salvation is a gracious and certain work of God. This is clearly seen in 1 Peter 1:3-5. The “who” of the relative clause in 1 Peter 1:5 hearkens back to the “us” in 1 Peter 3:3 (i.e., believers, recipients of the new birth). Believers are said to be “kept” (a present passive participle, ‘[are] continually being guarded’), that is preserved. The believer’s preservation is “by the power of God” (the efficient agency), “through faith” (the secondary cause), “unto salvation” (the result); for this reason it is sure, depending on the promised work of God alone. This is perhaps the strongest assertion of the eternal security of the believer in his salvation to be found in the New Testament.

Endnotes:

[1]  One does have to wonder how something described in the New Testament as eternal life could endure for only a finite, and perhaps very short, period of time.

[2]  Most Reformed theologians, of course, would not make a distinction between the rapture and the second coming of Christ.


Issues in Calvinism

“To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

The Five Points of Calvinism (i.e., TULIP) are a logically consistent soteriological system. Beginning from the first point, Total Depravity[1], the subsequent points of Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints seem to necessarily follow. It is this elegant and logical consistency that can be very intellectually satisfying, accounting for Calvinism’s power of attraction for many thinking believers. Logical consistency alone, however, is not the standard of truth. Rather, “[God’s] word is truth” (John 17:17), and it is against the absolute standard of “the law and the testimony” (Isaiah 8:20) that every claim must be measured.

The deviancy of Calvinism from the plumb line of Scripture begins with its understanding of Total Depravity. Scripture asserts that the unregenerate man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Calvinists understand this assertion to mean that “the sinner is so spiritually bankrupt that he can do nothing pertaining to his salvation[2]; he cannot even respond to God by exercising the personal faith required for salvation (Acts 16:30-31) without first being sovereignly regenerated by God[3]. From Paul’s use of the word “dead” in Ephesians 2:1, Calvinists construct the metaphor of the unregenerate man as a corpse (R. C. Sproul) or a cadaver (John F. MacArthur); since a literal corpse would not be able to respond to God in any way, the unregenerate man cannot either. Many Calvinists prefer the term Total Inability over Total Depravity to better express this concept, but based on their own analogy of corpse/cadaver the most accurate expression would be utter inability.

Metaphors (by definition) are partial, incomplete representations of reality; they inevitably break down when pressed too far. The Calvinist’s metaphorical construct of a physical corpse for the unregenerate man goes too far. For example, a physical corpse, in addition to being unable to believe, is also unable to sin, and yet the unregenerate man has no impediment to such an activity whatsoever. Scripture clearly presents a picture in which all men are commanded by God to believe in order to be saved (e.g., Isaiah 45:22; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:30-31), along with the implication that it is possible for unregenerate men to do so (e.g., John 3:16; 6:40; 7:37; 20:31; Revelation 22:17). The Calvinistic construct of the unregenerate man’s abilities/inabilities clearly lies beyond the true picture one sees in Scripture. Thus, although the subsequent four points may logically follow from the first, they suffer from an unbiblical understanding of Total Depravity that proves fatal for the system as a whole.

For additional analyses of Calvinistic teaching compared to Scripture, see:

Is Faith the Gift of God?

Who and How Does the Father Draw?

Kept by the Power of God

Endnotes:

[1] “The view one takes concerning salvation will be determined, to a large extent, by the view one takes concerning sin and its effects on human nature. It is not surprising, therefore, that the first article dealt with in the Calvinistic system is the biblical doctrine of total inability or total depravity.” David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1963) 24.

[2] Steele and Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, 25.

[3] An axiom of Calvinism is that regeneration precedes faith.


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