What Happens Next? Revelation 2.1-7, to the church at Ephesus

A Bit of Background Concerning the Church At Ephesus:

  • A thriving metro area at the time of John’s writing.
  • The capital and largest city of Asia (southwest Turkey) the city had a large seaport which made it an influential city of trade.
  • Enjoyed much freedom as a democratically self-run city within the Roman Empire.
  • The city has been described as being wealthy, cultured and corrupt (Summers, 108).
  • Chiefly known as the city which hosted the worship of the goddess Diana, thus it was a hotbed for Asian-influenced dark arts, necromancy, and exorcisms (Hodge, vi).
  • Acts 18-19 highlight Paul’s ministry to the city, staying for 3 years to teach the gospel. Acts mentions a who’s who of sorts of those involved in ministering there. Timothy was later placed in charge of the churches in this area.
  • Church tradition holds that the Apostle John ministered there in his later years and that Mary, the mother of Jesus, passed away in the city as well.
  • The church that was birthed there is thought to be quite large and influential.

Continue reading →

What Happens Next? Postmillenialism

Reminders

4 Ways to View Revelation…

Historicists – draw parallels between John’s vision and significant historical events. They seek to place major events of history within John’s writing like, the rise of the papacy, the protestant reformation, etc.

Futurists –  interprets the book of Revelation as literally as possible. This view leaves little room for symbolism. In fact, symbolism is only considered when something cannot be understood in a strictly literal fashion. Therefore, for the Futurist, the vast majority of Revelation has yet to take place. Futurism is most concerned with the time and the signs immediately preceding the return of Christ, and the state of God’s people at that future point.

Idealists –  see Revelation through more of an allegorical representation of the types of things or events believers may expect in the time between the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom and its consummation. This story is of the struggle of the Christian church in the world, and God’s continued preservation of his people through it.

Preterists – approach to Revelation understands that most of the book was fulfilled in the decades immediately following the establishment of the church. Though the book of Revelation does briefly address the distant future, most notably the return of Christ and final judgment, the majority of the book is concerned with the original readers’ present reality. Therefore, from where we are sitting, Revelation describes much of what has already taken place

Continue reading →

What Happens Next? An Intro To Eschatology

We will discuss the specifics of each of the major end times views in upcoming weeks, but this week I think it would be important to gain an understanding of some basic terminology regarding the last things and also talk about what the vast majority of believers hold in common regarding these upcoming events.

Coming To Terms (Important Words To Understand)

Have you ever been to a doctor for some type of ailment, and when he comes in to the patient room you’ve been waiting in for 35 minutes he starts using these big words, and you have no idea what they really mean.

This recently happened to me. My daughter, who has primary ciliary dyskinesia, had a scheduled bronchoscopy. After the procedure, she complained of some pain in her right side. So I called a Doctor friend, who informed me that she may be experiencing a pneumothorax! “WAIT!, I said, Give that to me in simple man’s language.” There were way too many big words, being thrown around and I was lost.

Sometimes theology can be a little bit like medicine, the language can be quite difficult to wade through, often times, it’s down right intimidating. Let’s define a few terms here so that we’re all on the same page.

Eschatology – from the Greek eschatos, meaning “last.” Thus, the study of “last things”, or the end times. To answer with a question, What’s going to happen when Jesus comes back?

Millennium/Millennial Reign – transliterated from the Latin millennium, meaning “one thousand years.” Generally speaking, referring to the reign of Christ, or the Kingdom of God, just before the final judgment and creation of the new heaven and new earth or final/eternal state. People use the term “millennial” usually in reference to the time of Christ’s physical, earthly return. Thus you will hear people refer to themselves as premillennial, amillennial, or postmillennial.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. – Rev. 20.4-6

Resurrection – the redemption of the physical body at the return of Christ, where the physical body is raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15). Our physical resurrection is guaranteed because of Christ’s physical resurrection. Our redemption is incomplete until the resurrection.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. – 1 Cor. 15.20-22

Tribulation/The Great Tribulation – a period of great suffering which will be encountered just before the physical, earthly return of Christ.

Rapture – the moment in which believers who are alive are “caught up” to be with Christ and receive the glorification of their physical bodies. People most often describe the timing of the rapture in relationship to the tribulation. Thus you will hear people refer to themselves in an abbreviated fashion as “pre-trib”, “mid-trib” or “post-trib.” Meaning the rapture occurs before, during, or after the tribulation.

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. – 1 Cor. 15.51-52

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. … 1 Thess. 4.13-18

Coming To Terms With One Another (Dogma Vs Doctrine)

Dogma = Primary doctrines = theology explicitly taught in scripture, in which we should not consider compromising, without rejecting the authority of scripture.

Doctrine = Secondary or tertiary doctrines = theology gathered from scripture, which may lead to a variety of theological positions, disagreement is allowed because of the openness left in interpretation.

Much of the disagreement found in the various eschatological views falls under issues of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

Things We Can All Amen (Dogma)

In addition to the events we’ve covered already, scripture lists several “signs” which will accompany the second coming of Christ. (listed from W. Grudem)

There will be…

  • a personal, physical, visible, unexpected, bodily, earthly, triumphant return of Jesus (Acts 1.11).
  • a future, bodily (physical) resurrection.
  • a rapture of the church.
  • a millennial reign (Though there are great differences in how this is interpreted).
  • a period of tribulation (Again, variances in interpretation. Some already see this event as being accomplished already).
  • an increase in false teaching/teachers (Mark 13.22).
  • the appearance of the antichrist/man of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2).
  • a global spreading of the gospel (Matt. 24.14)

Although we cannot know everything about the future, God knows everything about the future and he has in Scripture told us about the major events yet to come in the history of the universe. About these events occurring we can have absolute confidence because God is never wrong and never lies. – W. Grudem

This same Jesus is coming again. And His coming will be right on schedule-at the right place, in the right way, accomplishing the right things. – M. Rosenthal

Points Of Personal Application

Be ready.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, – Rev. 1.1

I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. – Rev. 3.11

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. – Rev. 22.12

42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. – Matt. 24.42-44

Ultimately a study in eschatology should give us comfort, encouragement, and hope. Thus we study not in order to worry about what will happen, but we study to help us be prepared and ready for what will happen and to have faith in a sovereign God during uncertain times.

Don’t worry so much about the end times that you forget the meantime.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant,[c] whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants[d] and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matt. 24.45-51

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1.6-11

Two objectives as we await the return of Christ.

  1. Glorify God in all you do (1 Cor. 10.31).
  2. Share the gospel as we go (Matt 28.18-20).

 

Seeing Grace in the Every Day. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

To prevent such spiritual pride from welling up in Paul, he was given a thorn in the flesh.

“to keep me from being conceited” – On the bright side, Paul fully understands the purpose of this “thorn” in his life. It was designed to keep him humbly dependent upon God’s grace as he lived and ministered under the gospel. The word conceited implies that that Paul might view himself as better than others, or that he might look down on others because they had not received the same spiritual experience he had.

“thorn” – The word translated “thorn” (skolops) occurs only here in the New Testament. It refers to something pointed such as a stake for impaling, a medical instrument, or a thorn. “Stake” would be a better translation, though “thorn” has dominated English renderings of the word.412 The metaphor carries “the notion of something sharp and painful which sticks deeply in the flesh and in the will of God defies extracting.

Paul’s point being that God has pinned down his pride through the use of this stake.

The word describes something that causes pain, annoyance—something vexing—and does not especially refer to sickness or affliction it can also refer to some kind of opposition.

What exactly IS his thorn in the flesh?  A plethora of suggestions have been made.

1.  Continual criticism of his physical appearance
2.  Some physical ailment, such as poor eye sight or other sickness.
3.  Some sort of psychological ailment, such as distress, depression, or guilt.
4.  Some spiritual sort of ailment, ie. sexual temptation.
To which john piper responds using verse 10: So you can see that what Paul has in mind here is not sin. He is not talking about a kind of behavior—like we might say he has a weakness for lust; or she has a weakness for overeating. Paul is not talking about bad choices that we make. He is not saying, The power of Christ is perfected in my bad choices. Or: I will all the more gladly boast of my bad choices. Weaknesses here are not imperfect behaviors.
5.  Trouble from adversarial theological groups, ie. the Judiazers. I tend to lean in this direction, especially because Paul describes this thorn as a “messenger”, literally “an angel”.

“was given” – The passive voice implies that God gave it to him. “Martin comments that the verb “to give” (δίδοναι) is used to denote God’s favor (see Gal 3:21; Eph 3:8; 5:19; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Corinthians, 412). Plummer suggests that if Satan were the agent, the verbs, “lay upon” (ἐπιτίθημι, Luke 10:30; 23:36; Acts 16:23), or “cast” (βάλλειν, Rev 2:24) or “put on” (ἐπιβάλλειν, 1 Cor 7:35) would have been more appropriate (The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 348).”

“Satan” – Satan comes as God’s adversary to lure people away from God’s rule, or he comes as God’s proxy to implement trials God authorizes. The story of Job provides the foremost example of the latter.426

APP: if we are not careful, we will let satan take over the things God places or allows in our life and we miss the spiritual lesson(s) God intends to reveal. We forget that God works all things together for good (Rom 8)…that trials are designed to produce maturity within us (Jas 1).

“So the answer to our second question is that the source of our weaknesses may sometimes be Satan and his destructive designs for us; but always our weaknesses are designed by God for our good. This is why the truth of God’s sovereign grace is so precious in the midst of hardship and calamity. God is in control of Satan. Satan does nothing to God’s children that God does not design with infinite skill and love for our good.” – John Piper

APP: Know God is in control of all of life’s circumstances.

“harass” – The verb “to torment” (kolaphizein, “abuse,” “batter”) implies humiliating violence—being slapped around; and the present tense suggests that it was persistent—something that happens over and over again.

Satan was permitted to buffet Paul. The word means “to beat, to strike with the fist.” The tense of the verb indicates that this pain was either constant or recurring.

ILL: Paul was given a spiritual “kick me” sign that he could not remove from his back.

“to keep me from becoming conceited” – 2 times in this verse! Paul’s “thorn” was an effective cure for any mistaken euphoria that visions might evoke. God wanted Paul to remain humble and fully aware of his own weakness. The thorn punctured any pride that might surge within him because of his grand entry into heaven, and the result was that he dealt with others with the meekness and gentleness of Christ (10:1) rather than with the arrogant puffery of Satan.

APP: To dwell on our own excellence is dangerous because it causes us to turn our attention from God’s glory to our own. It stokes the sinful desire to create a circle of admirers for ourselves rather than admirers (disciples) for Christ.

True discipleship is established by the building up of the Christians around us, not by how many spiritual mountain peaks one can claim he has climbed.

APP: Paul’s ambiguity as to his thorn allows for a broader context of personal application, while still applying the same theological and devotional lesson to our own lives. Thorns take many shapes and sizes.

APP: No matter the moment, depend on the grace of God.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

Paul’s initial prayer entreating the Lord to remove the stake (or perhaps the messenger of Satan, since the verb aphistēmi is always used of persons in the NT) indicates that he did not initially appreciate the significance of this affliction nor was it something easily borne.

APP: some incorrect responses to suffering:

1.  Bitterness and anger toward God.
2.  Give up and give in. Some throw themselves a pity party.
3.  Attempt to muscle through with self reliance.

APP: Few are able to value the onset of anything unpleasant or difficult, and they usually grasp its value only in retrospect.

APP: As Jesus accepted the cross through fervent prayer, so Paul has resigned himself to submit to God’s will about his weakness and no longer makes this request. Times come in our lives when we must learn to accept what is inescapable and then listen for what God is saying to us through it. We might find that we are mistaken about what we think is best for us and for God’s work.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Stakes in the flesh are not good, but they also are not bad because they may convey a word from God if we are attuned to hear it. What is important to Paul is the theological word-to-the-wise that his stake in the flesh provided him. It was a constant reminder of God’s grace and God’s power working through him.

Although God’s grace is sufficient, removal of the thorn would have been insufficient because Paul would not continually be dependent on the power of God in his life.

APP: Look for God’s grace in everything and completely rely upon God at all times.

Our tendency is to automatically see affliction and suffering as punishment from God, when in reality, it actually is a gift from God.

“But he said to me” – Literally: “once for all he said to me”.

ILL: “Is that your final answer?”

In fact, in this particular case, God’s denial of Paul’s request turned out to be to Paul’s greater good because it was to God’s greater glory

When we accept our own weakness, we then also learn that we must totally rely upon God. This is why the stake was not some temporary lesson that God would allow quickly to pass. It is the essential necessity, not just for Paul, but for all of us.

In the Christian life, we get many of our blessings through transformation, not substitution. When Paul prayed three times for the removal of his pain, he was asking God for a substitution: “Give me health instead of sickness, deliverance instead of pain and weakness.” Sometimes God does meet the need by substitution; but other times He meets the need by transformation. He does not remove the affliction, but He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.

“My grace” – What is grace? It is God’s provision for our every need when we need it.

“sufficient” – It was a message of sufficient grace. There is never a shortage of grace. God is sufficient for our spiritual ministries (2 Cor. 3:4–6) and our material needs (2 Cor. 9:8) as well as our physical needs (2 Cor. 12:9).

“my power” – We learn from the message given to Paul that God’s grace is not just the unmerited favor that saves us but a force that also sustains us throughout our lives. The modifier “my” in “my power,” is important. Paul is not speaking about power in general, but “the power of Christ” revealed in the crucifixion and resurrection: “For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you” (13:4)

“perfect” – The verb “perfected” (teleitai) means “brought to completion” or “is made fully present.” The present tense indicates that it is not yet a finished product but that it is still in process of being made perfect.

“weakness” – The stake makes him acutely aware of his own inadequacies and prevents him from thinking that he is equal to the task alone. It prevents a bloated ego from crowding out the power of God in his life.

“that the power of Christ might rest upon me” – God gives his pride a knockout blow that makes him completely dependent on divine power, not his own. As Bruce puts it, “His prayer was indeed answered, not by his deliverance from the affliction, but by his receiving the necessary grace to bear it.”432 But he received more than grace to bear a vexing affliction; he received the power of Christ.

APP: What God’s people really need is God’s grace and power, not comfortable living. It is my fear that we all live too comfortable.

The deepest need that you and I have in weakness and adversity is not quick relief, but the well-grounded confidence that what is happening to us is part of the greatest purpose of God in the universe—the glorification of the grace and power of his Son—the grace and power that bore him to the cross and kept him there until the work of love was done. That’s what God is building into our lives. That is the meaning of weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, calamity. –John Piper

10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

APP: “For the sake of Christ” – As believers, We don’t live our lives for us, but for Jesus.

“insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” –

Insults—when people think of clever ways of making your faith or your lifestyle or your words look stupid or weird or inconsistent. When we were giving out “Finding Your Field of Dreams” at the dome, I heard one man say mockingly, “And the Lord said, Play ball.” And all his friends laughed.

Hardships—circumstances forced upon you, reversals of fortune against your will. This could refer to any situation where you feel trapped. You didn’t plan it or think it would be this way. But there you are, and it’s hard.

Persecutions—wounds or abuses or painful circumstances or acts of prejudice or exploitation from people because of your Christian faith or your Christian moral commitments. It’s when you are not treated fairly. You get a raw deal.

Calamities (or distresses or difficulties or troubles)—the idea is one of pressure or crushing or being weighed down; circumstances that tend to overcome you with stress and tension.

“then I am strong” – He is therefore most powerful when he is least reliant on his own resources. Illusions of our own strength cause us to overlook divine power and results in our rebelliousness against God.

2 Thessalonians Chapter 3

Pray for Us

3 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

  • “pray for us” – Paul considered prayer one means by which the church could participate with him in his ministry, and he frequently asked for prayers that his ministry might be accomplished and that those who would hinder him might be overcome (cf. Rom 15:30; 2 Cor 1:11; Phil 1:19).

Continue reading →

2 Thessalonians Chapter 2

The Man of Lawlessness

2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,

  • In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had tried to calm their concern regarding those Christians who died before Christ’s return. They had adopted the idea that only those believers living when Christ came back would be united with him for his triumphant conquering of earth. Now a new concern is that the Day of the Lord had already occurred. Did they miss it?
  • “coming of our Lord…and our being gathered together to him” –  not two separate events, but one. See 1 Thess. 4.13-18.

Continue reading →